Citing increased threats from spyware and rootkits, Microsoft Corp. last week unveiled a new enterprise security product called Microsoft Client Protection and a security industry partnership to develop products for the companys operating systems.
The product combines anti-spyware and anti-virus protection with management features that will allow it to integrate with Active Directory and software distribution technology, such as Windows Server Update Services, officials said. Security experts hailed the news as a step in the right direction but said Microsoft will have to broaden the reach of its security technology to win adoption.
Microsoft Client Protection is still being developed, but an early beta release is planned for later this year. When it is complete, Client Protection will be a premium program that integrates Microsofts desktop protection software with enterprise management tools. IT managers will be able to receive alerts from Microsofts anti-virus and anti-spyware products and create reports that pinpoint trouble areas, officials said.
Client Protection will be an enterprise analog to Windows OneCare, a free consumer anti-virus and anti-spam program that is now in beta and scheduled for release next year.
Client Protection will offer malicious-software protections that are similar to those offered by other enterprise anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. However, it will not integrate Microsoft research on detecting cutting-edge threats such as rootkits, versatile and stealthy programs that allow remote attackers to control compromised computers, said Matthew Braverman, a program manager at Microsofts Security Business & Technology Unit, in Redmond, Wash.
Microsoft is continuing to work on how the program will integrate with IT management tools beyond Active Directory and Windows Server Update Services. Officials could not say which management tools or vendors the company will eventually support.
Microsofts program will have to work in heterogeneous environments in which not all systems are running Windows or using the latest versions of the operating system, experts said.
"It sounds like a good tool, [but] what about legacy systems like NT 4?" asked Henk Diemer, information security manager at Dutch banking giant ABN AMRO, here last week at the Virus Bulletin International Conference. "Even new systems, like printers or modern IP phones, are platforms that need to be protected."
Also last week, Microsoft said it will release Microsoft Antigen, the companys enterprise gateway anti-virus and anti-spam product, in the first half of next year. Antigen is based on technology Microsoft acquired when it bought Sybari Software Inc., and Microsoft will add its own anti-virus engine to Sybaris multiengine detection feature, the company said.
Microsoft also launched a new collaboration effort with security companies, dubbed the SecureIT Alliance. The new partnership program counts leading anti-virus and security software vendors as members and will use a Web portal to give members access to information from Microsofts development labs, including software development kits, beta release programs and information on early-adopter programs.