In the most recent of a series of occasional email messages to customers, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates pledged to end the security woes that continue to plague Windows users. The long and detailed email message, which followed one of Gates's famous Think Week hiatuses, describes the security-oriented technologies and tools Microsoft will release this year.
"While there are considerable challenges ahead, Microsoft and our industry are making significant progress on the security front," Gates wrote. "Given human nature, evolving threat models, and the increasing interconnectedness of computers, the number of security exploits will never reach zero. But we can dramatically blunt the impact of cybercriminals and are dedicating a major portion of our R&D investments to security advances."
In addition to major investments in customer education and company partnerships, Gates highlighted the following security technologies:
- Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2)--The service pack will include several "isolation and resiliency advances" that will prevent four specific types of OS attacks. SP2 will ship by mid-year, according to Microsoft.
- Windows Server 2003 SP1--This update will ship in the second half of 2004 (it was originally due in late 2003) and will include the "server-relevant security technologies found in Windows XP SP2," including the new Windows Firewall (enabled by default and during setup). Windows 2003 SP1 will also include a Security Configuration Wizard for configuring roles-based security on servers.
- Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2004--Also due this year, ISA Server 2004 will feature expanded content-inspection capabilities, a much simpler UI, and better management tools.
- Exchange Edge services--A new technology aimed at blocking incoming or outgoing malicious and junk email, Exchange Edge services will provide a foundation for next-generation email filters, encryption products, and email-compliance products from third parties.
- Active protection technologies--Microsoft is working on an integrated set of protection technologies that will make computers more resilient in the face of ever-stronger viruses and worms. These technologies include dynamic system protection, which will proactively adjust the security controls of Windows-based PCs based on the hostility level of the current environment; behavior blocking, which will limit the ability of an infected computer to cause more damage to other systems on the network; and application-aware firewall and intrusion prevention, to identify malicious traffic and block it.
- Spam tools--Microsoft has several spam-related offerings, including its SmartScreen Technology for Microsoft Exchange Server and antispam technologies in Hotmail, Microsoft Office Outlook 2003, and MSN.
"Security is as big and important a challenge as any our industry has ever tackled," Gates wrote. "It is not a case of simply fixing a few vulnerabilities and moving on. Reducing the impact of viruses and worms to an acceptable level requires fundamentally new thinking about software quality, continuous improvement in tools and processes, and ongoing investments in resilient new security technologies designed to block malicious or destructive software code before it can wreak havoc. It also requires computer users to be proactive about deploying and managing products. Technology has come an incredibly long way in the past two decades, and it is far too important to let a few criminals stop the rest of us from enjoying its amazing benefits."