Quick Hits

Microsoft Details Windows 7 Security

Features in upcoming OS reflect Microsoft's strategy of end-to-end trust
SAN FRANCISCO -- RSA CONFERENCE 2009 -- Microsoft this week provided a peek into the security innards of its upcoming operating system, Windows 7.

Amid the backdrop of the software giant's end-to-end trust theme for security -- highlighted by Scott Charney, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Group, in his keynote address yesterday -- Microsoft also outlined new security features that come embedded in the next-generation OS, including application and mobile security controls.

End-to-end trust is especially relevant given today's threats, says Steve Lipner, director of security engineering strategy for Microsoft's Trusted Computing Group. "We're seeing attacks based on rogue AV software today, [for example], and end-to-end trust is a way to assure users what they are downloading was not a malicious artifact. Similarly, targeted attacks sending people spoofed email with a malicious attachment is another great example [of how it could help]," he says.

Paul Cooke, Microsoft's director of Microsoft's Windows enterprise client products, says the key security features in Windows 7 are part of the end-to-end trust model. They include Direct Access, AppLocker, USB thumb-drive support in BitLocker, and updated security features in Internet Explorer 8, such as an anti-clickjacking function. Windows 7 is currently in beta.

Windows 7's Direct Access will let users log into the corporate network and automatically get secure access via IPSec. "IT then can also touch and update their machine," Cooke says. "It works well with NAP [Network Access Protection]," he adds, which validates the client's security posture.

AppLocker lets IT control and secure applications on the client's machine. "It can control executables, scripts, installed software, and DLLs," Cooke says. It lets an organization set up which applications a user can run and then automatically updates them, he says.

BitLocker to Go in Windows 7 will let users encrypt USB thumb drives and SD cards to protect data stored on those devices in the event they are lost or stolen. "Too many USB drives are in the news about being lost," Cooke says.

Microsoft's Charney said in his keynote yesterday that Windows 7 provides some of the key elements of a "trusted stack," where all components on the machine can be authenticated and proved trustworthy.

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