Upcoming Security Improvements from Microsoft

In a speech at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2003 last week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer outlined some actions Microsoft will take in the company's continuing effort to better secure Windows platforms. Ballmer accurately pointed out that many people are dissatisfied with the company's patching tools and patch rollout process. Microsoft will now issue patches on a monthly basis instead of irregularly, with the exception of critical patches, which the company will release as soon as possible. Microsoft is also working on consolidating its patches at a central location on its Web site so that users don't have to search numerous places for patches for different software packages.

Microsoft will also release a new version of Software Update Services (SUS) in the near future. Ballmer didn't say what new features SUS 2.0 would provide, but he did say it would be released sometime in the first half of 2004. If you haven't tried SUS, be sure to check it out. The current version--SUS Server 1.0 with Service Pack 1 (SP1)--can pull down patches and service packs and roll them out to systems on your network. http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserversystem/sus/default.mspx

In addition, Ballmer said that the company will develop some new features for Windows XP systems that won't be available for Windows 2000 platforms. The company will try to develop technology that inspects mobile systems for possible infections picked up on another network (such as a wireless or dial-up connection) before letting them connect to the local network.

Microsoft also plans to improve its Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) technology and will expand administrators' ability to centrally manage ICF. Regarding Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), the company will provide better control over ActiveX controls and provide some sort of sandbox for scripts to help prevent them from gaining too much access to the local system. In addition, Microsoft is working on ways to better protect memory from buffer-overrun problems.

Ballmer said Microsoft will release these improvements as part of XP SP2. The service pack will be released to the public sometime in the first part of 2004.

If you run Win2K platforms and wonder how long Microsoft will continue to support them, the answer is the middle of next year. The company will support Win2K SP2 and Windows NT Workstation 4.0 SP6a systems until June 2004.

If you're interested in reading Ballmer's entire speech, you can find it at the Microsoft PressPass Web site. http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/exec/steve/2003/10-09wwpc.asp

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