Lack of openness could limit Vista security gain

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Lack of openness could limit Vista security gain

Bill Goodwin

Microsoft's decision to build anti-spyware, a firewall and other security services into Windows Vista is unlikely to directly benefit large corporate IT departments, Gartner said last week.

The analyst company did, however, praise Microsoft's efforts to improve the security of its code.

The inability of Micro­soft's security products to integrate with non-Microsoft systems was a barrier to its use by larger firms, though small and medium-sized enterprises might benefit, said Gartner vice-president Neil MacDonald.

MacDonald also warned that Micro­soft could potentially face a conflict of interest if it placed too much emphasis on security products rather than eliminating security weaknesses in its software.

However, he said large organisations could benefit by using the security products built into Vista as a bargaining chip to win better deals from their existing security suppliers. Microsoft's entry into the field was already bringing costs down, MacDonald said.

Despite giving a mixed reception to Microsoft's built-in security tools, Gartner said Microsoft's programme to develop more secure code was "best in class". No other supplier has gone to the same lengths to review the security of its products, said MacDonald.

There is now little difference between the security of Windows and Linux, and the decision to move to open source is no longer security-driven. Microsoft is also supporting its products for longer than other suppliers, the conference heard.

Windows Vista will offer some genuinely useful functions, including the ability to control USB devices and encryption of data through the Bitlocker feature, said MacDonald. But there are some drawbacks.

Bitlocker will only be available to businesses that pay for Software Assurance licensing. Also, although USB control is included, there are other routes into machines that are not protected, such as Bluetooth and infrared, said MacDonald.

Read article: Hackers look to trick staff as software toughens up

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