At the 14th annual RSA Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates highlighted some of the company's progress toward its Trustworthy Computing
initiative, which began more than three years ago. Before a standing-room-only crowd, Gates also outlined some of the company's short-term plans to help its customers bolster their security.
In the opening keynote, Gates said Microsoft will release Internet Explorer 7 later this year with improved security capabilities, including anti-phishing technology. The new version of IE had been slated to be released as part of the next version of Windows, not due until next year, but the company decided to release it sooner to improve security.
The new version of the browser will be available to users running Windows XP with Service Pack 2 installed. Released last summer, Service Pack 2 provides increased protection against certain types of worms and viruses--especially those that exploit software security holes known as "buffer overflows."
IE has seen its market share slide from about 97% in May to just over 90% by the end of the year, as users deserted it for more secure and advanced rivals such as Mozilla's Firefox.
Microsoft also will provide its new AntiSpyware protection, released last month in beta, as a free addition to the Windows operating system, contrary to expectations.
"Blocking and scanning of spyware should be available to every Windows system," Gates said at the San Francisco security conference, which opened Monday and runs through Friday.
Microsoft, however, will offer business-grade managed anti-spyware systems, Gates said, "that will include rich administration capabilities. We'll have a separate administration product and license for that."
Microsoft AntiSpyware, a revamped and renamed product acquired in December's purchase of Giant Company Software, has been available for download in beta form since early January. According to Gates, more than 5 million free copies have been pulled from its Web site
Gates also talked about Microsoft's future vision of providing better protection of the network edge for its business customers and increased security for mobile systems, such as notebooks. Part of that initiative, Gates said, was the release Tuesday of Microsoft Internet Security & Acceleration Server 2004 Enterprise Edition.
Gates said Microsoft is striving to "improve security and safety for all of our customers."