Microsoft seeks allies for cyber fight

Microsoft is in talks with governments and companies in several countries to establish partnerships to help protect computer...

Microsoft is in talks with governments and companies in several countries to establish partnerships to help protect computer users against cyber attacks.

Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer will visit Japan next week and meet with government officials, but Microsoft is not ready to announce a security partnership there yet, said Microsoft spokesman Sean Sundwall.

"As we are in many countries, we are certainly engaged in discussions with companies in Japan and certain government sectors with the end goal of protecting customers against the security threats posed by hackers," Sundwall said.

Microsoft is looking to involve a broad group of companies in the security alliances it is seeking to build. This includes other software makers as well as hardware and networking equipment companies.

The proposed group in Japan would also include Microsoft competitors and would be called the Secure Computing Alliance. The group is to include large Japanese PC makers, internet service providers, software companies and electronics retailers.

"It is very premature to announce anything at this point in terms of a formal group," Sundwall said.

Microsoft's Japan unit has been very active in helping customers secure their systems. In September, in the wake of a series of virus and worm attacks, the unit gave away CD-Roms containing a full set of updates for the Windows XP operating system.

The CD-Roms also helped answer a request made by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

In the US, Microsoft has launched a "Protect Your PC" public relations initiative, which includes full-page newspaper ads and a website to help users secure their systems.

Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service

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