Microsoft talks security, seriously

Products announced this week to streamline software-patch delivery are just part of Microsoft's overall efforts to tighten system security, Scott Charney told attendees of the IT Forum in Copenhagen on Tuesday.

As Microsoft's Chief Trustworthy Computing Strategist, Charney laid out the company's security efforts with all the seriousness one would expect from a former public prosecutor and U.S. Department of Justice cybercrime chief.

Though many of the company's current security initiatives are well-worn subjects to those familiar with the company's accelerated efforts in the area, Charney's straight talk and big-picture approach underscored the need for the software maker to clearly outline its plans and get partners and customers onboard for its security efforts to work.

"As a leading player in the IT ecosystem, we're required to go out and talk about what were doing," Charney said.

In addition to working on building more secure products by design, promoting security training and development and easing patch management, the company is partnering with hardware makers and security companies, Charney said. The company's announcement Monday that it is teaming with Dell to provide a single tool for updating hardware and software and the release Tuesday of a public beta of Windows Update Services to help administrators automate and control software updates are recent examples of these efforts, he added.

Charney's message seemed to resonate with at least some of the 3,000 forum attendees, who had been looking for evidence that a change in the industry's security approach was afoot.

"It was really refreshing to hear a Microsoft executive speak with no marketing slides. It gave me the impression that security is actually a top concern," said Copenhagen-based IT consultant Erik Trudso Jespersen.

Indeed, Charney portrayed security as his mandate, saying that when government initially ceded the Internet and computers to the public domain, it also gave away its role as protector.

"Essentially what the government did was give public security and national security to the market," Charney said.

Given Microsoft's prevalence in the market, and Charney's top role at the software maker, that makes him a cop with a very large beat.

"When you see the reliance we have on this system we built, you see the possible damages," Charney said. "It's been said that every company is a software company whether they know it or not. That may be true ... every bank is a software company nowadays."

Charney's seriousness about the current security situation sounded a chord with Knud Henrik Stromming, virus defense manager at DSB Informatik.

"We've realized how essential security is from the point of view of the development process," Stromming said. "We still have a long way to go as an industry, but we are actually starting to do something."

IT Forum runs through Friday in Copenhagen.

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