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Fox guarding the hen house?

By NI70 ·
Tech titan's security product
Microsoft to release antivirus software for businesses
- Carrie Kirby, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, October 7, 2005

Microsoft will release test versions of its new security software for businesses later in 2005 and early next year, chief executive Steve Ballmer said Thursday.

The new programs, called Client Protection and Antigen, will fight Internet viruses, spyware and spam e-mail messages.

They will incorporate technology Microsoft acquired when it purchased several security companies, including antivirus-program makers GeCAD and Sybari Software Inc. The Redmond, Wash., software giant already has beta versions of antivirus and anti-spyware software for consumers. Taken together, the products strike at the heart of local security vendors Symantec and McAfee's business.

"At Microsoft, we're investing heavily in security because we want customers to be able to trust their computing experiences, so they can realize the full benefits of the interconnected world we live in," Ballmer said in a Munich speech.

Hackers and virus writers typically find and exploit flaws in software. The majority of the flaws leading to attacks have been in Microsoft's Windows operating system and other products, making security an issue that has dogged the company for years. Since 2002, Microsoft has had a high-profile campaign to fight such problems, at first by improving the security built into its products. More recently, the company has fought Internet miscreants in the legal realm as well, joining with law enforcement and offering rewards for information leading to the apprehension of virus writers.

Now, Microsoft will sell products that fight Internet threats directly. Some in the computing industry welcomed the news, with reservations.

"Anytime you see Microsoft doing stuff for security, it's good, it's important," said Bruce Schneier, founder and chief technical officer of Mountain View's Counterpane Internet Security.

"But the devil's in the details," he added. He said he would wait to see the product before drawing conclusions about whether it would effectively fight security problems on the Internet.

Investors apparently see Microsoft's incursion into Symantec and McAfee's territory as a danger. On Thursday, Cupertino's Symantec fell 4.6 percent, or $1.03, to close at $21.56. McAfee, of Santa Clara, declined 1.7 percent, or 54 cents, to close at $30.57.

Microsoft says it will have a major advantage over competitors in corporate antivirus protection because the new security system will be integrated into Microsoft systems. For example, the new programs will make use of the updating service that Microsoft customers already use to deliver new versions of the operating system.

And recent security missteps by a competitor may also help Microsoft, said Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute, a security information cooperative in Bethesda, Md.

"Most large organizations have a big investment in Symantec tools and wouldn't normally consider switching. This year, however, Symantec's products have repeatedly shown up on the list of the software with critical new security vulnerabilities," Paller said. "Many corporate IT managers are angry and frustrated that their security vendor is as careless as the operating system vendors in writing bad code. And Microsoft has succeeded in persuading many of them that they are far ahead of other software vendors in improving the situation for new products."

Symantec spokeswoman Linda Smith Munyan responded that Symantec takes the secure operations of its products very seriously.

"The product-development and research teams at Symantec are continuously looking at ways to ensure delivery of secure software during the planning and development of products," she said.

Microsoft has not announced prices for its security products, but it is expected to charge for both the corporate and the consumer versions of the antivirus programs rather than rolling them into the Windows operating system for free. While some customers may welcome the convenience of buying security protection from the company that already provides their operating system, others may resent being asked to pay more to make products they already bought operate securely.

"Sounds like a protection racket, doesn't it?" Schneier asked. "It is a protection racket."

Scott Stanzel, senior product manager with Microsoft's Security Technology Unit, responded that no matter how much his company improves built-in security, separate antivirus software is still necessary.

"We want to make a platform that is inherently secure, by design and by default," Stanzel said. "But we know there are always going to be people with malicious intent out there that will work to exploit things in the digital world."

Shares of Microsoft closed at $24.73, up 6 cents.

E-mail Carrie Kirby at ckirby at sfchronicle.com.


"At Microsoft, we're investing heavily in security because we want customers to be able to trust their computing experiences, so they can realize the full benefits of the interconnected world we live in," Ballmer said in a Munich speech. IMO, if MS would strip out I.E., and pay more attention to quality control, they would be doing more for security than buying out other companies and integrating it into their windows code.

"We want to make a platform that is inherently secure, by design and by default," Stanzel said. "But we know there are always going to be people with malicious intent out there that will work to exploit things in the digital world."

Again, if MS would strip out I.E. and ensure quality control, wouldn't this be inherently more secure by design and default?.

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I hope the non-inclusion becomes a habit

by CharlieSpencer In reply to Fox guarding the hen hous ...

"...it is expected to charge for both the corporate and the consumer versions of the antivirus programs rather than rolling them into the Windows operating system for free."

Good. Now if they'll just take that approach to everything else they try to jam in the OS.

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Even if MS

by Neil Higgins In reply to I hope the non-inclusion ...

bought Symantic,people would "raise eyebrows",simply because it would then be "fertilised" with the Redmond name.Personally I dont agree with them doing the (Client protection and Antigen dance),to try and "outfox" viruses,spyware,melware,etc.I'd rather they simply concentrated on Vista,with NO in-built browser,and left it up to the consumer to use what ever he/she/company wanted to use,with code that excepted ALL others with ease.But they wont,as they've progressed too far down the long and winding road to be top dog in a hostile world.

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