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Microsoft preaches togetherness for online security

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RSA Six years after scrambling to lock down Windows and having challenged security vendors on home turf with Windows Vista, Microsoft is calling for a "dialogue" over online security and privacy.

Chief research and strategy officer Craig Mundie told RSA Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Initiative has, since 2002, laid the foundation for "good design" in Windows but that the challenge is now to secure the entire stack - including applications like Office.

According to Mundie, weaknesses remain in management of software and hardware, while there's a need to weigh privacy of end users with the need for end-to-end security. Today's management systems are not sufficiently integrated and remain too complicated to tackle these challenges, Mundie said.

And, apparently, the job of managing and securing everything is too big for Microsoft to do on its own. In the recent past, though, Microsoft managed to alienate partners by thinking it could do a better job of securing Windows than others. The company has delivered antivirus, anitspyware and firewall software with Windows Live OneCare and also restricted access to the Windows Vista kernel. The first Windows Vista's service pack, meanwhile has disabled or encumbered third-party security products for the operating system.

Looking past Microsoft's solo act, Mundie told RSA the challenges are in interoperability of different security, privacy and identity systems, and of managing these across multiple devices, domains, geographies and regulatory systems.

"As we sit in here in 2008, it's really clear to me that despite huge progress on the security side - more remedial than pro-active - we do find ourselves [in a situation] where the intimacy with which computing devices touch peoples lives is escalating the challenges we have in privacy," Mundie said during a scripted fire-side chat with Affiliated Computer Services chief information security officer Chris Leach at San Francisco's Moscone Center.

"Ultimately we need collaboration with other people who are building some part of the process in the system," Mundie said. "We recognize the practical reality is people are going to have a lot of heterogeneous systems... there's no way we could postulate a solution to this."

Mundie called for a "formalized dialogue" with users, technicians and governments about how to specify the different elements that "make interoperability mandatory."®

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