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Gartner cautious on promise of better security

Bill Goodwin

Windows Vista will bring an incremental rather than revolutionary improvement in corporate network security, said analyst firm Gartner.

"It is hard to generate too much excitement about Vista," said Jay Heiser, security analyst. "It would be pleasing if all the stuff works as has been promised. We are not expecting an exponential level of improvement or a paradigm shift."

But Heiser said the new operating system would offer security features of real value to businesses, including support for smartcards and quarantining of unprotected laptops.

"Windows 2000 and Active Directory could not support smartcards without a lot of add-ons," he said.

"I would certainly hope with Vista it would finally be possible to implement smartcards without having a huge implementation and development effort."

Microsoft's development of a quarantine system for laptops that will protect corporate networks from malware is an "excellent idea", said Heiser.

Microsoft is working with Cisco to develop a common-standard quarantine technology that should increase the take-up of Vista, Heiser said.

"We are keen on the idea of laptop encryption to protect data in transit," he added. "A lot of organisations will get to the point where they routinely encrypt travelling data."

According to Gartner, the improved differentiation between users and administrator rights in Vista will fix what is currently a "broken model".

But although the new version of Windows Explorer will be more robust, Heiser is concerned it will lack sufficient controls to restrict access to websites containing potentially hazardous Active X scripts.

"One of the things Microsoft needs to do is help clean up small and medium-sized businesses, and home users," he said.

"They are the cesspits from which infections arise. We hope Vista does reduce the level of bots that appear on home and small business systems."

Windows Vista will not ship without robust security, Microsoft tells business


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