Responding to Reports

By Matt Hines  |  Posted 2006-08-09 Print this article Print

In response to the reports, Microsoft has maintained that the security researchers should not assume that any problems they find in the beta versions of Vista will remain there when the final product ships sometime in 2007. Symantec has also credited Microsoft with making consistent progress with each version of the software it has released publicly thus far.

Microsoft officials said in a statement that any beta versions of Vista will include issues that will be addressed in later releases and that it welcomes feedback from partners, including Symantec.
However, the company called it "unusual" for a partner to provide such a large amount of analysis, and publish its findings, on beta products. The version of Vista that Symantec has studied was released in February 2006, and many of the problems highlighted by the reports have already been fixed, the company claims.

"We are continuing to make changes to Windows Vista security technologies as a result of ongoing analysis from both Microsoft and third parties," the company said in its statement. "Many of these changes will be implemented for the [Release Candidate 1] release."

The seeming discord over the manner in which Symantec has called out beta versions of Vista may point to growing tensions between the two companies as Microsoft moves aggressively into the security market. Among the security tools that will be bundled along with Vista are anti-malware applications that serve the same purpose as some of Symantecs core aftermarket products, and the two firms are also increasingly competitive in the enterprise security space.

However, it is also clear that there are remaining security issues in Vista, and specifically related to the kernel. At the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas on Aug. 2, malware researcher Joanna Rutkowska of COSEINC, displayed a new technique that could be used to plant an offensive rootkit in Vista.

In a room packed with conference attendees and even Microsofts top security guru, Ben Fathi, corporate vice president for its STU (Security Technology Unit), Rutkowska succeeded in loading unsigned code into Vista Beta 2 kernel, without requiring a reboot.

Despite watching the product be assailed successfully, Fathi said that Microsoft is making headway, including with the help of such demonstrations.

"This is the reason were here. To see the advancements in research and work closely with these guys [white hat hackers] to figure out whats working and whats not working," Fathi said in an interview with eWEEK immediately after the presentation.

"Weve already fixed that path [of attack] … Its beta software that will have bugs. That [attack scenario] has already been fixed in later builds," Fathi said.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest security news, reviews and analysis. And for insights on security coverage around the Web, take a look at Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog.


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