In his e-mail Thursday, Microsoft's Mundie acknowledged that the threats facing the computer industry have changed in the past decade and that the stakes are higher, given IT's ubiquity in almost every facet of daily life. Massive amounts of data are now stored in the cloud and accessed through mobile devices. "'TWC Next,' the ensuing decade-plus of Trustworthy Computing, will focus on the new world of devices and services. Everyone at Microsoft and the entire computing ecosystem has a role to play," said Mundie.
A big part of TWC Next is securing cloud services like Azure, said Microsoft Trustworthy Security director Jeff Jones, in an interview. "The computing environment today is drastically different than it was 10 years ago," said Jones. Among other things, Microsoft is formulating secure development lifecycles "specifically related to cloud services," Jones said.
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Microsoft also is developing technologies and practices to guard against the changing nature of security threats. At the time of Gates' memo, worms that could infect hundreds of thousands of PCs in days were the big danger. Today's cybercriminals are more focused on stealing valuable data from individual users and corporate PCs.
"The threats have evolved. Now you have professional criminal organizations targeting credit card numbers and other data through methods like phishing. As exploits get technically harder, attackers have turned to social means," said Jones. "The idea that you can keep people out completely when you have persistent and well funded attackers--that's something the community has to think about."
Protecting against the newer threats has meant adding features that can limit the damage if a user is exposed to an attack. Internet Explorer 8 and IE9 defend against unauthorized Active X executions, and on the client side there's the addition of barriers such as BitLocker in Windows 7 and Secure Boot in Windows 8, which guards against BIOS level attacks.
"We have to keep raising the bar. We have to be as committed today as we were 10 years ago," said Jones.
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