SO FAR, Microsoft has issued more security bulletins for vulnerabilities in its products than this time last year, but the company still claims it has made significant improvements to the reliability of Windows.
During the company’s global conference for its partner organisations this month, Mike Nash, head of Redmond’s security business unit, said the company has made significant progress since it made security a priority in 2003.
He said that although Microsoft expects to issue 69 security bulletins this year compared to 2004’s 45, things are getting better.
He argued that most of the vulnerabilities being found now are for older versions of Windows, while far fewer are being discovered in Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP 2).
Nash said XP SP 2 was found to have a third fewer vulnerabilities and half the number of critical vulnerabilities than older versions of Windows XP.
In the past year, 35 critical security bulletins were released for both Windows 2000 and Windows XP with Service Pack 1, while 18 were issued for XP SP 2 since its launch last August, Nash claimed.
Customers with SP2 deployed are between 13 and 15 times better protected than users of earlier versions of Windows XP, he said.
Nash urged Microsoft partners in attendance to use these figures to move more customers onto Service Pack 2.
“It delivers a much better experience,” he said.
But while talking up Microsoft’s improvement on security to an audience of over 6,000 partners from around the world, including around 20 from New Zealand, Nash did not target older versions of Microsoft’s own software alone.
Nash put Microsoft’s improvements on the security front down to its Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) policy, which he said is a rigorous process to train employees to develop more secure code and to test and review products for security quality.
To date, over 15,000 Microsoft developers, programme managers and testers have received training on the development of more secure code, and this has resulted in pro-duct with significantly reduced numbers of vulnerabilities, Nash said.
Microsoft has also made advances in helping customers manage software updates better with the introduction of a single Microsoft Update site, and new tools such as the Windows Server Update Service and Baseline Security Analyser 2.0, said Nash.
Nash also highlighted new security products Microsoft is introducing. This includes Windows AntiSpyware, Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool and Windows OneCare, which provides antivirus, firewall, PC maintenance and backup and recovery tools. Beta versions of the product will be released later this year.
Meanwhile, Nash said improvements to the security competency in Microsoft’s partner programme will better equip partners to secure customers. Microsoft is adding two new specialisations for partners who provide security management and infrastructure security.
The audience responded with enthusiastic applause to Nash’s announcement that the company has paid its first US$250,000 reward in its antivirus programme to two people who dobbed in the Sasser author, 19-year-old German Sven Jaschan.
A German court handed Jaschan a 21-month suspended sentence and ordered him to perform community service last month.