Microsoft Releases Server SP1

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-04-08 Print this article Print

Windows Server 2003 gets security rev.

Two years after releasing Windows Server 2003, Microsoft Corp. has finally given customers the first update to the operating system, Service Pack 1.

The Redmond, Wash., software vendor March 30 released the code to manufacturing and as a download for users. It has security enhancements and reliability and performance improvements. Samm DiStasio, a director of Windows Server marketing, said Microsoft did not just roll up security fixes with this release; it also made changes to some core behaviors in the operating system that could allow classes of exploits to be eliminated.

The default behavior of RPC (Remote Procedure Call) ports and Microsofts Distributed Component Object Model can now be locked down, while support for some of the no-execute hardware "thats out there is included. Hopefully, what we have done there is help eliminate some root-cause behaviors and total classes of exploits versus just giving a rolled-up patch," DiStasio said.

Windows Server 2003 was the first product to benefit from Microsofts Trustworthy Computing initiative, in which all code goes through a rigorous screening and audit for potential security issues and other vulnerabilities. At the same place in the life cycle 635 days after launch, Windows 2000 Server had 64 critical bulletins, while Windows Server 2003 had 27, DiStasio said.

SP1 includes a new Security Configuration Wizard, which reduces the attack surface area by gathering data about server roles and then automatically blocking all services and ports not needed to perform those roles. The Wizard takes the guidance that, until now, has been available only in paper form on TechNet and "puts it into an automated tool that lets users discover their servers and further lock down the role that they have that server playing," DiStasio said.

SP1 has the firewall off by default, except for a clean server install, when SP1 blocks all inbound connections until Windows Update delivers the latest security updates to the machine. Microsoft has moved the VPN quarantine technology from the resource kit to SP1, which is fully scriptable.

Jonathan Addington, a network administrator at K2 Corp., in Vashon, Wash., and a Windows Server 2003 customer, hailed SP1s security improvements and its ease of installation, which is "practically seamless. With the latest security updates, weve once again reduced our system vulnerability to viruses, worms and hacker attacks and added functionality that continues to reduce system management costs."

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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