Microsoft is "on the right track" in securing its software, the company's Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates said Tuesday in a presentation that included new details on a Windows XP update and the company's spam-fighting efforts.
During Gates' keynote presentation at the RSA Conference in San Francisco, a Microsoft product manager showed for the first time a new feature for Windows XP called Windows Security Center that will be part of Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), a significant update to the operating system that is due out in the first half of this year.
The Windows Security Center will be a central place to check important security settings, for example for firewall and antivirus software. It will also offer suggestions to better protect a Windows XP system, said Zachary Gutt, the Microsoft product manager who joined Gates on stage to demonstrate the Windows XP SP2 features.
Gutt also demonstrated the improved Windows Firewall, previously called Internet Connection Firewall, which will be delivered with Windows XP SP2 and showed off the pop-up ad blocker for Internet Explorer. For enterprise users, he underscored the ease of central management of the firewall, including two profiles: one for when a PC is connected to a corporate network and one for when it is not.
"SP2 is a release that is totally focused on security and in fact today that is the primary focus on the Windows team," Gates said. "We think this will be a very important release and we will ask people to install broadly."
As expected, Gates also promoted Microsoft's plans to combat unsolicited commercial e-mail, or spam, which he called not only a nuisance, but also a security threat. The Redmond, Washington, company is proposing technical standards it calls Caller ID for e-mail to authenticate the sender of an e-mail message.
"Having e-mail come in and not being able to identify where it is coming from is a huge security hole," Gates said. "Authenticating e-mail is a very key initiative for us." Gates described Caller ID as a "very specific technical proposal" that he expects his company can act on by this summer if it gets sufficient backing.
In his presentation, Gates also touched on other Microsoft security products such as its Internet Security and Acceleration Server 2004, due out midyear, and security enhancements in the upcoming Visual Studio "Whidbey" release of its developer tools. Gates also highlighted a partnership with RSA Security to bring strong user authentication technology to Windows desktops.