Microsoft Security: Whats Next?

Interview: Microsoft security strategist Scott Charney on what lies ahead for Trustworthy Computing.

Scott Charney has been on the hot seat ever since he joined Microsoft Corp. last year as the software giants chief security strategist. He arrived in Redmond, Wash., four months after Bill Gates sent out his famous memo outlining the companys new Trustworthy Computing initiative and a newfound commitment to security. He is not only the public face of that effort but also the man who is ultimately responsible for carrying out Gates instructions regarding security. Charney talked to eWEEK Senior Editor Dennis Fisher recently about the progress Microsoft has made in the last year and what lies ahead for Trustworthy Computing.

eWEEK: How do you think the company has done as far as Trustworthy Computing is concerned in the last year?

Charney: In some ways, I think weve made great progress. But then I look at it as a continuum, and it seems like weve made very small steps on a very long road. Some of the steps have been important ones. Before Trustworthy Computing, the delaying of products because of security concerns was not common practice at Microsoft—or in the industry, for that matter. Its an organizational change. Trustworthy Computing is a long-term effort, and some of the benefits have not yet been realized in the market.

eWEEK: How so?

Charney: Well, Windows .Net Server [2003] hasnt been released yet, but a lot of the work weve done in the security push will be evident in that release. Were doing a lot of after-action efforts where we look at things like whether the vulnerabilities we found in the security push are unique to a product or more widespread. We will continue the push constantly on every new product that we release. Overall, Im very pleased, but we still have a long way to go.

eWEEK: What other elements of Trustworthy Computing are you working on?

Charney: One of things Im looking at is, how do you come up with an objective measure of the security of a product? Our chief privacy officer, Richard Purcell, has developed this tool called the Privacy Health Index to assess the performance of each application. But when you think about trying to apply that to security, it gets kind of fuzzy. The questions we ask as part of the privacy index are binary, yes or no. But if you ask a developer if he did a security code review and he says yes, what does that mean? Its a really important thing. Were struggling to find the right system.