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16 October 2006, 15:17

Microsoft creates Vista APIs for security firms

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Following the trail of complaints by security companies claiming that Microsoft was hindering the integration of security solutions into Vista, the Redmond company has backed down and announced new program interfaces (APIs). One API will allow the security firms to monitor the state of the kernel in the 64-bit version and access it securely. The Security Center will also not issue warnings related to the security consoles of competing products.

The planned changes to Vista are Microsoft's answer to concerns on the part of the EU Commission – Microsoft itself emphasised at the end of last week after agreeing to the requirements of the Brussels anti-monopoly office that there was no longer any danger that Windows Vista would face [ticker:uk_77887 further delays] in Europe. The EU Commission however declined officially to declare whether Microsoft's actions would win Windows Vista approval as meeting anti-monopoly statutes. And according to US media reports, the security firms lodging the complaints in the first place continued to express skepticism, noting that the changes should only be judged once they are available for inspection. A spokesman for Symantec, Cris Paden, said: "We have not seen anything yet. These are technical issues. Until we actually see the APIs, all we know is what they [Microsoft] have said in the media. If it is true, then it would be a step in the right direction for giving customers the choice to use whatever solutions they would like."

A spokeswoman for McAfee, Siobhan MacDermott, expressed similar sentiments: "We are encouraged by Microsoft's recognition that there is a problem. However, we do not have specific information on the nature of these changes, or their timing." Laura Yecies, Manager of Check Point's ZoneAlarm division, stated: "Once we have a chance to see what capabilities the new kernel-level APIs will extend to us, we'll have a better idea if they will be adequate."

According to media reports, the API for suppressing reports from the Windows Security Center will be available this week, but the APIs for secure access to the kernel must still be developed. It may therefore happen that they are not ready when Microsoft Vista is delivered to PC makers and CD presses.

Adrien Robinson, a director from Microsoft's Security Technology department, addressed that issue: "We do not want vendors... accessing the kernel through unmodified approaches. We will not allow them to go on the fly and modify the kernel, basically circumventing PatchGuard. We need to work with them on the right approaches to work with PatchGuard." Kaspersky for its part seems to be confirming Microsoft's desire for cooperation; the Russian antivirus maker has refuted the accusations made by other security firms and has declared that it sees no problems with the integration of security software into Vista.


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