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Microsoft under pressure over detail of Vista security

Security experts have demanded the detail behind Microsoft’s pledge to tackle concerns over security features in the forthcoming Windows Vista operating system.

Security experts have demanded the detail behind Microsoft’s pledge to tackle concerns over security features in the forthcoming Windows Vista operating system.

The call follows Microsoft’s announcement that it is on track to launch Vista after making changes to comply with European Commission competition rules.

The Commission had highlighted fears that security features in Vista could threaten the market position of existing security software firms.

Microsoft said it had adopted two measures to meet concerns raised with the Commission by security vendors. It has created an Application Programming Interface (API) to ensure that its Windows Security Center does not send an alert when an alternative or competing security console – provided by a rival vendor – has been installed on the PC.

The software giant has also created and extended kernel level APIs to allow security firms access to the Vista kernel so they can develop their own products, bypassing the new PatchGuard feature in the 64-bit version of Vista, which is designed to protect the kernel.

But a Symantec spokesperson said the security firm “has yet to actually see the final detailed information needed to address our concerns regarding Windows Security Center or PatchGuard”.

Symantec was encouraged by Microsoft’s announcement and said it was hopeful that its actions would allow a choice of security systems running on Vista, but the spokesperson added, “The operative question is exactly when will the final detailed information be made available to security providers?”

Vista would ship to hardware manufacturers within weeks, and security providers would need the information “in a timely manner”, he warned.

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