Security Projects Enter MS Live Labs

Microsoft adds a new Web-based authentication service to its Live Labs research unit, indicating a bigger push into computer security research.

Two new security-themed projects have been added to Microsofts Live Labs research stable.

The two beta projects—Microsoft Live Labs Security Token Service and Microsoft Live Labs Relay Service—indicate a big push by the Redmond, Wash., software vendor to churn out experiments in computer security field.

Live Labs, launched in January 2006 as a new Microsoft research facility for developing "Internet-centric" features, is headed by former Yahoo researcher Dr. Gary Flake.

According to documentation released by Microsoft, the new Security Token Service is an online identity management service that allows users and site owners to offload authentication functions.

It is not quite clear how the Security Token Service differs from Windows Live ID, which succeeded the MSN Passport Network service.

Microsoft now uses Windows Live ID to serve as the authentication system for Windows Live, Office Live, Xbox Live, MSN and other Microsoft online services.

The beta lets users register a personal, virtual information card and then, when a visit is made to a participating Web site or service that supports Microsofts "InfoCard" initiative, the user is allowed to sign in to the Web site using your information card.

"If you are a Web site or Web service owner, you can also register your site or service to use security tokens issued by this Security Token Service," Microsoft explained.

The service requires the use of Internet Explorer 7 Beta 2 and the WinFX Runtime Components Beta 2.

The other new project, Microsoft Live Labs Relay Service, allows users to expose a Windows Communication Foundation-based service to the Internet from behind a firewall or NAT (Network Address Translator).

Network devices typically block applications from accepting inbound network connections but with the Relay Service, Microsoft said developers can find a communication infrastructure for seamless connectivity without having to develop complex applications.

"The Relay Service provides the communication infrastructure that protects developers from having to create the complex code necessary to achieve seamless connectivity. It allows you to expose a service to the Internet from behind your firewall or NAT," Microsoft Live Labs explained.

Microsofts Cybersecurity and Systems Management Research Group has also invested heavily in Internet security projects. The unit has been responsible for work around spyware and rootkit clean-up, Web-based exploit detection and the threat from typo-squatted domains.


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