Microsoft yesterday released its Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, providing system customers with security enhancements as well as reliability and performance improvements. Analysts said service pack releases are significant events for consumers under typical circumstances, but this Microsoft release offers more than the typical fixes and patches.
Building on a collection of security updates, Service Pack 1 addresses additional core security issues by providing customers with a reduced attack surface, better protected system services with stronger default settings, and reduced privileges.
“With Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, our development team took the time to treat the root cause of many security issues, not just the symptoms. This service pack is very significant and should help address certain classes of exploits,” said Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the Windows Server Division at Microsoft.
Muglia said Service Pack 1 is a major component of Microsoft’s overall strategy to help keep customers as secure as possible and encouraged all Windows Server 2003 customers to deploy the update.
Al Gillen, research director for system software at IDC, told TechNewsWorld that Microsoft has brought forward several tools that promote more secure network configuration and a streamlined way to administer the latest security releases.
“IDC research consistently finds that customers look forward to a first service pack after a product release to bolster the security of the Windows environment,” Gillen said. “In this particular situation it’s actually even a bigger deal because this is more than a standard service pack.”
Those tools include a Security Configuration Wizard designed to reduce the attack surface by gathering information about specific server roles, then automatically blocking all services and ports not needed to perform those roles. Another tool, Windows Firewall, serves as a host (software) firewall around each client and server computer on a customer’s network.
Servers are vulnerable during the time between their installation and application of the latest security updates. In response, Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 blocks all inbound connections to the server after installation until Windows Update has delivered the security updates to the new computer through its Post-Setup Security Updates tool.
Internet Information Services 6.0 Metabase Auditing allows administrators to identify potential malicious users should the store become corrupted, provides stronger defaults and privilege reduction on services to establish a minimum security threshold for applications, and provides the addition of Network Access Quarantine Control components. These allow administrators to isolate out-of-date virtual private networking assets.
Glass Half Full
Gillen said there are two ways customers can look at the new Service Pack 1. They can see a half-full glass that offers more tools to deploy and manage security settings. Or they can see a half-empty glass that magnifies the need to understand these new technologies and how they could impact the customer’s existing infrastructure.
“Some customers will see this as all good. Some customers will see it as good surrounded by work that they have to accomplish to make sure that they are okay using that product,” Gillen said. “Ultimately it’s good for the customers because it makes Windows Server 2003 a better, more secure operating system.”