WinInfo Daily UPDATE, February 25, 2004

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In the News
- Microsoft to Provide Antispam Technology, Foster Email Standards
- Windows XP SP2 Update Adds Security Center, Other New Features

==== In the News ====
by Paul Thurrott, [email protected]

Microsoft to Provide Antispam Technology, Foster Email Standards
At the RSA Conference 2004 Internet security conference in San Francisco yesterday, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates outlined his company's plans to work with large email partners to eliminate spam. Gates said Microsoft will give those partners free technology that will emulate the caller ID functionality in today's telephone systems and prevent spammers from hiding their identities and forwarding mail through anonymous sources. The plan, which involves backers such as, Brightmail, and Sendmail and calls for a global registry of legitimate Internet email sources, might have to compete with similar but less sophisticated initiatives in the works at Yahoo! And AOL. Microsoft correctly notes, however, that for the scheme to work, a large number of email providers must adopt it.
Microsoft's antispam effort, the Coordinated Spam Reduction Initiative (CSRI) will include numerous policies and technologies that the company will use to curb the spam threat. Microsoft is working to establish standards that will help legitimate email senders differentiate themselves from spammers, developing new email filters, and working on a micropayment system that would make spam financially ineffective. "Spam is our email customers' number-one complaint today, and Microsoft is innovating on many different fronts to eradicate it," Gates said. "We believe that Caller ID for E-Mail and the Coordinated Spam Reduction Initiative will help change the economic model for sending spam and put spammers out of business."
Ryan Hamlin, general manager for Microsoft's Anti-Spam Technology and Strategy Group, describes caller ID as a mechanism that legitimate senders of email can use to help ensure that spammers aren't abusing their Internet domains. "In a nutshell, caller ID involves two key steps," he said. "One, senders of email publish the IP addresses of their outgoing mail servers in DNS in an email-policy document. Two, the email software at the receiving end of a message queries DNS for the email policy and determines the 'purported responsible domain' of the message. This is done by comparing the information in DNS to ensure it matches the information on the originating mail. We believe this technical solution gets at the root of the spam problem by helping to confirm legitimate senders."
By this summer, Microsoft will roll out a beta version of Caller ID for E-Mail in MSN Hotmail to test its effectiveness. Hotmail currently serves more than 150 million active email users and is the most-used email service on the planet. Microsoft will also work with partners to ensure that the system is in place on as many email ISPs as possible and help develop a compliance program. The company is also working on viable-identification alternatives for smaller email senders and says it will continue to work on other antispam technologies, including challenge-response systems, machine learning, micropayments, and safelists.

Windows XP SP2 Update Adds Security Center, Other New Features
Yesterday, Microsoft unveiled to private beta testers the second external build (build 2082) of the recently redesigned Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2). The build features a new front end for security-oriented tasks, new UIs for wireless networking, and Lonestar updates for XP Tablet PC Edition (which Microsoft will market as XP Tablet PC Edition 2004). As previously reported in WinInfo Daily UPDATE, XP SP2 will be a major update for all XP users when Microsoft releases it by midyear.
"We've got quite a bit of work to do before it's end-user ready," Matt Pilla, senior product manager for the Windows Group, told me during a recent visit to the Microsoft campus. "The goal is to get security features out to customers as soon as possible but make sure they're customizable enough that they don't block deployments." Pilla noted that Microsoft shipped the current beta to about 500 testers. This build is the first external SP2 build to support XP Media Center Edition (MCE) in addition to XP Home Edition, XP Professional Edition, and XP Tablet PC Edition, and I was able to test this support on an XP MCE 2004-based PC.
XP SP2 build 2082 includes the new Windows Security Center application, which is based on a similar tool from last year's "PC Satisfaction" beta. Basically a Web-based tool, Security Center monitors your Windows Firewall, Automatic Updates, and Virus Protection settings and warns you if any are deemed unsafe. You can now set the Windows Firewall to On (Recommended), On (But don't allow exceptions; recommended for mobile use), and Off (Not Recommended). Beyond this obvious new feature, build 2082 includes small tweaks to the wireless-networking interface and slightly updated versions of Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), Microsoft Outlook Express, and Windows Media Player (WMP) 9 Series.
My recent review of the XP SP2 Beta remains the definitive overview of this product, and I'll update the review this week with new screenshots and information, particularly about Security Center. For more information, visit the SuperSite for Windows.

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