Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates has detailed the company's progress in securing its software products.
In his e-mail, entitled, "A Microsoft Progress Report: Security", Gates called computer security "as big and important a challenge as any our industry has ever tackled", and said Microsoft is making "significant progress on the security front".
Among the developments Gates cites as evidence of progress in security are features in the forthcoming Windows XP Service Pack 2 and Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, the company's recent Caller-ID antispam architecture, better Windows support for strong authentication and public key infrastructure (PKI) technology, and improved software coding practices at Microsoft.
Microsoft is dedicating a "major portion" of its research and development investments to security, and is looking at various technologies to protect businesses and consumers and thwart outbreaks of viruses and worms.
For corporations, Gates said that Microsoft was researching technology to inspect remote devices such as home computers which try to connect to corporate networks, blocking access for machines that do not pass a health inspection.
Microsoft is also developing active protection technologies which adjust computer defences based on changes in its "state" or block behaviours that might be caused by infection from a virus or a malicious hacker.
Security features in the company's Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2004 will also help protect software applications and strengthen virtual private network (VPN) connections with better content inspection for network traffic and network security policy management features.
Gates also promised better education for computer users around the world. Beginning in April, the company will host 21 Security Summits in cities across the US to train IT professionals and developers.
For consumers, Microsoft is building a security centre into the Windows XP Control Panel to consolidate information about security features.
The company is also adding a software update service, Microsoft Update, which will cover Microsoft products beyond Windows, and will work service providers and anti-virus companies to educate computer users about proper PC "hygiene".
Paul Roberts writes for IDG News Service