Gates unveils server-level security plans

LAS VEGAS' Security and trustworthy computing will be Microsoft Corp.'s top priorities in the coming year, chairman Bill Gates said Sunday at Comdex.

He showed off server-level security and antispam tools, saying that 'some of the top things that have been there for the last 20 years need to be advanced,' such as a computer's ability to recognize cracked code and to tell whether a new device driver will do damage.

Gates demonstrated Internet Security Acceleration Server 2004, a tool that will let a systems administrator set firewall configuration and maintenance parameters by dragging and dropping the pertinent details.

But ISA Server 2004 does more than configure a firewall according to a template. It can distinguish, for example, MP3 file-swapping services from legitimate business applications. Using a check box feature, sysadmins can use ISA Server 2004 to block hostile code signatures such as those of the Nimda and Code Red worms, Gates said.

Systems Management Server 2003 takes patch management enterprisewide, he said. At a glance, an administrator can see how many computers within an organization have installed a specific security patch.

The administrator can make patch installation mandatory with a specific time limit for downloading and installation. Users get a security bulletin asking whether they want to install the patch immediately or wait until it becomes mandatory, at which time their systems install it automatically.

SMS 2003 also tells the sysadmin whether remote users have connected to download the patch, or whether they are still offline. Real-time charts keep track of systems that have been patched.

As for spam, Microsoft has developed SmartScreen technology that tries to distinguish between spam and legitimate e-mail, Gates said. SmartScreen will be embedded in all future Microsoft e-mail programs. Early beta users have reported a 95 percent reduction in spam, he said.

'We have got to make it not economical for spam senders,' Gates said. 'I believe this is an achievable goal.'

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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