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Microsoft is pushing improved malware defences as a reason to shift over to Vista.

Systems running Microsoft’s latest operating system recorded 60 per cent less malware infections than XP, according to figures obtained using Microsoft’s malicious software removal tool.

Ben Fathi, corporate vice president of development for Windows, claimed on Tuesday that Vista experienced fewer security vulnerabilities than either Mac OS X, Windows XP or Ubuntu Linux. Fathi made the statement during a keynote presentation at the RSA Europe security conference in London on Tuesday.

The launch of Vista has been dogged with problems including the difficulty in performing simple tasks such as moving files and lukewarm responses from PC builders, software developers and users alike. Vista contains improved security features such User Account Control (UAC) and Kernel Patch Protection.

Third party application developers have criticised patch protection while many users have found it hard to get to grips with UAC, which has a habit of confronting users with pop-up windows even when running innocuous applications.

Fathi left the stage without fielding questions, which would surely have included queries as to how Microsoft’s vulnerability stats compare with independent security sources such as Secunia or Symantec, whose figures often cast Microsoft’s software in a less favourable light.

Technology on its own can only help mitigate, not eradicate, malware problems. Often the weakest link stems from users, Fathi argued. Microsoft's most recent Security Intelligence Report, released on Tuesday, showed a 500 percent increase in Trojan downloaders and droppers. Phishing attacks increased by 150 per cent over the same period.

I want to ride my lifecycle

During his keynote, Fathi reviewed the last six years of the Trustworthy Computing initiative. He said the biggest changes have come in the security development lifecycle of products.

Of 300 products or new versions that have gone through the process of review, analysis and testing that makes up the revamped security development roadmap, three have been delayed as a result of an unfavourable analysis. "These products were sent back to the products teams so that they could work out mitigation. This affected the release cycle but it was the right thing to do for our customers," Fathi said.

During his presentation, Fathi briefly touched on the key security features that will come with Windows Server 2008. Key features will include hypervisor virtualisation technology, BitLocker drive encryption technology (a feature that will allow users with branch offices to more easily encrypt data) and Network Access Protection, a technology that restricts unpatched systems or those with out of date software from accessing network resources. ®

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