Microsoft to make Longhorn vulnerability-aware

  • Joris Evers (IDG News Service)
  • 26 February, 2004 11:57

Microsoft is working on security technologies for the upcoming Longhorn release of Windows that will protect users against security threats by monitoring system and network behavior as well as the security patches that Microsoft has issued.

The new technologies will allow Windows to detect irregular system behavior -- in terms of network traffic, memory usage and system calls, for example -- and respond to them automatically, Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates said in a presentation at the RSA Conference in San Francisco Tuesday.

The result of the development effort, which Microsoft refers to as "active protection technologies," should protect systems from worms and viruses by preventing and containing attacks, according to Microsoft.

A component of the protection system, dubbed "dynamic system protection," will track which security patches users have installed. The component will make changes to the Windows firewall to fend off any attacks that appear to take advantage of a security flaw that users have not yet patched themselves against.

For example, if Microsoft has provided a patch for a flaw involving ActiveX controls, dynamic system protection will block ActiveX controls from running on a Windows system until that patch is installed, Microsoft said.

Other parts of the active protection effort include reducing the likelihood of a successful attack by automatically adapting the security settings to the type of network connection, for example when a notebook computer is moved from a corporate network to a public wireless LAN, said Microsoft Product Manager Jon Murchinson.

Microsoft is readying Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), a major security-focused update to Windows XP that is due out in the first half of this year. However, the active protection technologies will not be part of that update, said Mike Nash, corporate vice president of the security business unit at Microsoft.

Instead, Microsoft hopes to include the expanded security technologies in the next release of Windows, code-named Longhorn, Nash said. Longhorn is expected to be released around 2006.