Microsoft Chairman Envisions Improved PC Security

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates this week stressed coming security advantages for users of Microsoft’s Windows XP and forthcoming Vista operating systems, highlighting an identity management strategy that seeks to pare down on passwords.

Speaking to attendees at the RSA Security Conference in San Jose, Calif., Gates also touched on the company’s planned identity software, which it hopes will be better received than its Passport single sign-on technology, and how the next Windows upgrade to Vista will include strong anti-spyware and other security measures.

Gates Gets Mad

In past speeches at RSA, Gates has focused on security issues including spam and spyware, said Webroot Vice President of Threat Research Richard Stiennon, who was in attendance at Gates’ keynote this week.

“But the buzz is always, ‘Heh, he’s kind of blown his credibility in terms of promises and predictions on security,'” he told TechNewsWorld. “These problems don’t go away just because Bill Gates gets mad at them.”

Gates’ speeches are typically upbeat and positive about progress, but mindful of the tremendous challenge of securing PC and Internet activities, he said.

Unlike past approaches, Gates said the foundation for better security and identity management was being built into Vista, which he hopes will encourage all other software and hardware makers to consider security in new projects as well, from start to finish.

Taxing Task

Gates also addressed the growing number of ways and devices through which people connect in both their personal and professional lives.

“Our vision for security is to create a world where there is greater trust — where people and organizations can use a range of devices to be more reliably and securely connected to the information, services and people that matter most to them,” Gates said.

Stiennon, whose anti-spyware company now sees more competition from Microsoft’s anti-spyware software that is being built into Vista and the newest version of Internet Explorer, said Microsoft could do more for security by abstaining from some areas of technology, rather than trying to get into home entertainment, cell phones, search and the array of other Microsoft endeavors.

“I think it’s futile, the task they’re attempting,” he said.

Yankee Group senior analyst Laura DiDio, however, said Microsoft is criticized no matter what it does, and has to respond aggressively to security concerns for its customers.

“Microsoft never wanted to be in the security business, but in a way, they have to,” she told TechNewsWorld.

User Experience

DiDio said although she understands the skepticism and cynicism around Microsoft’s discussion of security, she sees the company making improvements.

Although enterprise and everyday users may have to wait until next year or the end of this year to experience a more secure Windows with Vista, DiDio pointed out that half of security is the user’s behavior.

“No matter what Microsoft or anybody does, 50 percent of it is [dependent on] the user,” she said.

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