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1/18/2007
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Microsoft Lines Up Vista Security Partners

Eleven security vendors promise to have Vista-ready products when Microsoft's new operating system is available to consumers at the end of the month.

Microsoft on Wednesday simultaneously touted the security prowess of Windows Vista and bragged about the number of third-party products that stand ready to defend users from online criminals.

The 11 vendors that Microsoft highlighted include two -- Symantec and McAfee -- that have repeatedly crossed swords with the Redmond, Wash., developer over security provisions of Vista. Microsoft, however, seemed to put that all behind, at least temporarily, for the Jan. 30 consumer launch of the new operating system.

"Vista is the most secure operating system we've ever built, and our security partners continue to play a vital role in adding layers of protection onto the platform," said Ben Fathi, the head of Microsoft's security technology group, in a statement.

Among the Vista-ready security products that Microsoft promoted were those from CA, Grisoft, Kaspersky Lab, McAfee, Panda, Symantec, and Trend Micro. All will be available for sale by Jan. 30. Microsoft also plugged its own Windows Live OneCare, the security suite that when first announced began a series of sometimes-tense confrontations with third-party vendors. Microsoft intends to roll out a Vista-compatible version of OneCare in 17 language editions.

The fracas between Microsoft and its security partners reached fever pitch in October, when Symantec and McAfee complained to the European Union's antitrust agency and launched public relations campaigns that blasted the Vista maker for locking down the kernel in the 64-bit version of the operating system. Following talks with the EU, Microsoft said it would make changes to Vista, including publishing APIs (application programming interfaces) to let security rivals access information from the kernel.

Microsoft on Wednesday said cooperation, not controversy, was necessary to stymie attacks against the new operating system. "With all of us working together, we can help people feel safer and more confident when using their PCs," Fathi said.

Also Wednesday, Symantec announced that would it have Vista versions of Norton AntiVirus and Norton Internet Security ready by the Jan. 30 launch date. It also said it was looking into enhancements to take the edge off some early users' concerns over a Vista security feature.

That feature, dubbed "UAC" for User Account Control, is meant to make it more difficult for attackers to plant malicious code, as it requires the user to confirm a host of actions, including installing software. Symantec thinks UAC is too "noisy" and its interruptions confusing.

UAC "will be very intrusive," says Ed Kim, director of product management in Symantec's consumer product group. "Moving forward, we think there are opportunities to enhance the built-in security features of Vista, including UAC."

For the moment, Kim only would say that Symantec was "researching, but not ready to share specifics" about what form the changes to UAC would take, but he acknowledged that it would at the least give users control over how frequently UAC alerted them.

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