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Security a priority with Vista

01 Sep 2006

As the largest Microsoft technology release in a decade, Microsoft Vista offers very real improvements in security with specific features engineered to provide a safe computing experience for both businesses and consumers. Brett Roberts, Microsoft New Zealand’s director of innovation talks to The Channel about the key security features in Microsoft’s new operating system.

Is Windows Vista a secure operating system?Yes.  It’s Microsoft’s most secure operating system to date and offers significant potential for partners to stimulate customer purchases of software and hardware. It also presents partners with the opportunity to provide expertise and advice through value added services in a number of areas, including security. This is the first operating system to go through our Security Development Cycle and it has been rigorously tested to ensure high levels of security for all our customers.

What mobility security features have been designed with businesses in mind?There are a number of key security features in Windows Vista that have been designed for businesses who have mobile workforces and want to safeguard their intellectual property. Sensitive data can reside on business computer laptops and if these laptops become lost or are stolen this could have far reaching consequences. Windows BitLocker Drive Encryption is a hardware enabled data protection feature designed to address this problem by encrypting the entire Windows system to prevent sensitive data being accessed on compromised computers. It is available with Windows Vista Enterprise and Windows Vista Ultimate. Windows Vista can also restrict the use of removable storage devices such as USBs which can be used to prevent theft of intellectual property - an extremely valuable feature for many businesses.Another feature relevant to mobile workforces is Remote Access. This allows employees working out of the office to have secure and reliable remote access to a corporate network –without the need for a virtual private network (VPN) connection, however you will need to be running Windows Server Longhorn.

What about the Parental Controls that come with Vista?Well the first thing to note about Parent Controls is that parents will love them - the kids not as much.Parental Controls are exactly what they sound like - controls that give parents the ability to monitor and control their child’s activity on the computer as well as keeping them safe when surfing the internet. These controls can be used to block access to websites containing unsuitable material and can also be used to restrict games that include questionable content.  Parents can even generate an activity report to determine what websites their children have been visiting and the games they’ve been playing. This can be applied to applications they have been using as well. As a parent myself I know that nothing is more important than your children’s safety. That’s why I think parents are really going to appreciate the control these features provide. When you combine Parental Controls with security enhancements made to Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) such as the Microsoft Phishing Filter, families have a way to stay safe from online predators.Can you tell us more about the Microsoft Phishing Filter?We are hearing more and more about phishing scams affecting New Zealanders. Phishing scams work by imitating legitimate websites hoping to trick users into handing over sensitive personal information. Microsoft’s Phishing Filter helps users identify malicious websites that might seek to extract personal information.  The Phishing Filter uses heuristics to identify suspicious websites and checks sites against a list of known phishing sites. This opt-in feature is updated several times every hour using the latest security information from Microsoft and industry partners to help ensure that users can benefit from the most current industry data available.The coloured address bar also helps to prevent users becoming victims of phishing scams by providing a visual cue about the nature of a website. Similar to traffic lights the bar turns red to signify a bad situation (don’t go forward and enter details into the site), yellow indicates the site is suspicious and green means it is ok to proceed. Microsoft takes security very seriously and new features in Windows Vista and IE7 have been designed to keep users and their families’ online experience a safe one.Does Windows Vista provide better protection from malware?Windows Vista includes a built-in anti-spyware tool called Windows Defender which helps prevent malicious software (Malware) installing. Malware - such as viruses, worms, spyware and other potentially unwanted software - can cause a wide range of problems including theft of personal information or performance issues. Often the effects of malware take a considerable amount of time and money to fix. The scary part - many users have malware and they don’t even know it. In addition to helping prevent malware Windows Defender can also help find and remove malware if it’s already been installed. Windows Vista also contains the User Account Control feature which improves the safety and security of computers by giving users fewer privileges to complete their tasks and therefore reducing the risk of malware installing.  Improvements have also been made to Windows Firewall to further protect against hackers, viruses and worms and Internet Explorer 7 now has a Protected Mode that works to protect user data and configuration settings from being deleted or changed by malicious websites or malware.Additionally users can also download a free Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT) which periodically scans the PC looking for known prevalent viruses. Since the initial release of the MSRT the tool has been used approximately 2.7 billion times by at least 270 million unique computers removing over 16 million instances of malicious software from 5.7 million unique Windows computers over the past 15 months. Security impacts the entire IT industry and should be considered an industry wide responsibility. Microsoft is fully committed to security and fraud issues and is working with customers to simplify security processes and drive the intelligence of security protection deeper into software to reduce the demands on users and IT administrators and help keep people safe when online.