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Microsoft hands Vista code to security vendors




Microsoft hands Vista code to security vendors
Microsoft hands Vista code to security vendors



http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&taxonomyName=security&articleId=9004172 

By Robert McMillan
October 16, 2006 
IDG News Service

Microsoft has taken the first step toward addressing complaints made by 
security vendors Symantec Corp. and McAfee Inc., which had feared that 
the software giant's upcoming Vista operating system would harm their 
customers.

On Monday, Microsoft released API (application programming interface) 
code that will allow security vendors to disable the Security Center 
management console that will ship with Vista. Symantec and McAfee had 
complained that without the ability to disable this software, Vista 
users who had purchased their products would receive duplicate and 
confusing security messages.

The APIs are being released via several of Microsoft's security partner 
programs, including the SecureIT Alliance and the Microsoft Security 
Response Alliance, said Adrien Robinson, a director with Microsoft's 
Security Technology Unit.

Symantec had brought this and other complaints to the European press 
recently and was clearly hoping to pressure the European Commission into 
forcing Microsoft into changes.

On Friday, Microsoft announced that it would make the changes that 
McAfee and Symantec had been seeking. Monday's API release is the first 
step in this direction.

However, it appears that it may be as long as a year before Microsoft 
addresses a second concern, relating to a technology called PatchGuard 
that Symantec and McAfee say will make their products less secure on 
some Windows systems.

PatchGuard is designed to prevent software from accessing the core of 
the Windows operating system, called the kernel.

Although PatchGuard is not used by Vista when it is running in 32-bit 
mode, it will lock many types of software, including Symantec's, out of 
the kernel on 64-bit versions of the operating system. The security 
vendors wanted Microsoft to give them some way to access the 64-bit 
kernel, saying that this high-level access was required in order to 
activate critical security features.

Most Vista users are expected to run Vista in 32-bit mode when it first 
ships, but the 64-bit version is expected to eventually become more 
widely adopted because its ability to process data in larger, 64-bit 
chunks will give it a performance edge.

Microsoft has now pledged to create new APIs for Vista that will allow 
vendors like Symantec to get around PatchGuard.

Those APIs will be complex, however, and it will take time for them to 
be developed, Robinson said. Microsoft expects to roll out this 
functionality in the first major "service pack" update to Vista. No 
timeline has been set for Vista SP 1, but if history is a guide, it 
could be a year away. Microsoft rolled out its first service pack for 
Vista's predecessor, Windows XP, nearly one year after the software's 
introduction.

Robinson left open the possibility that the kernel APIs could also be 
released ahead of Vista SP 1. "If we can do something sooner, then we'd 
like to do that as well," she said.


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