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11/12/2009
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Government Use Of Windows 7 Hinges On Security Spec

The Federal Desktop Core Configuration, which defines 300 PC settings for improved security, has yet to be finalized for Windows 7.

More than a dozen federal agencies, including the White House and all branches of the military, are testing Windows 7, according to Microsoft. But it may be another six months before agencies can move ahead with Windows 7 deployment because a government-mandated security standard hasn't been finalized.

The Federal Desktop Core Configuration spells out 300 settings for Windows PCs and laptops, with a goal of making them less vulnerable to hackers and data breaches. FDCC settings exist for Windows XP and Windows Vista, but not yet for Windows 7.

"It will take until spring 2010, at least," said Ken Page, Microsoft's FDCC program manager, in a presentation today at Microsoft's Washington, D.C., office. "This process does not happen fast."

A number of agencies are pilot testing Windows 7, including all branches of the military, the FDIC, White House, Internal Revenue Service, National Archives, and the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Homeland Security, Justice, said Page.

The Department of Defense, with input from Microsoft, is taking the lead in defining the FDCC for Windows 7 and drafted initial settings in June at Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., headquarters. The next step is for DOD deputy CIO Dave Wennergren to sign off on the specs, which Microsoft program manager Page expects to happen within days. After that, the configuration will be vetted by the Federal CIO Council and by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

NIST will post the government's FDCC proposal for public comment. NIST has already built a lab for creating and testing operating system images and has begun exploring the feasibility of a "cloud solution" that would let agencies do FDCC compatibility and compliance testing remotely.

FDCC started as an Air Force project to cut down on the array of OS images it managed, and was later mandated government-wide by the Office of Management and Budget. Over the past five years, the Air Force has saved $140 million through FDCC and bulk purchasing, taken security patch times down from 57 days to 3 days, and cut back on help desk calls to Microsoft by 40%, says Nate Morin, Microsoft's team architect for the Air Force.

The Air Force recently completed its migration to Windows Vista. Microsoft expects that within six to seven months of the release of the Windows 7 FDCC, the Air Force will roll out Windows 7 to almost all of its 525,000 desktops.



InformationWeek Analytics has published a guide to the Open Government Directive and what it means for federal CIOs. Download the report here (registration required).

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