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McAfee, Microsoft Trade Insults Over Vista

The increasingly testy exchange between Microsoft and third-party security software makers stems from Microsoft's decision to wall off the kernel in 64-bit Vista.
McAfee was not immediately available Friday for follow-up comment, or to answer whether it planned to file an official complaint with the EU commission.

Microsoft wasted no time in responding. Friday morning, the company released a statement attributed to Ben Fathi, who heads its security group. "It's unfortunate that McAfee's lawyers are making these kinds of inaccurate and inflammatory statements," said Fathi. "These discussions are underway between our engineering teams and our third-party security partners about the functionality they are seeking, and how to prioritize this significant work in the months ahead. We are implementing the commitments we made to the European Commission."

Fathi also repeated assurances made previously that Microsoft will itself not be able to access the kernel any more, or any more directly, than security rivals. "It's important to note that we are being completely even-handed with Kernel Patch Protection, aka 'PatchGuard,'" he added. "Microsoft applications will have to follow the same rules as any other security vendor."

McAfee and Symantec have both scoffed at that. Earlier this month, John Viega, McAfee's chief security architect, flatly said: "I don't believe them" when asked about Microsoft's promises. This week, Symantec's head of consumer engineering accused Microsoft of brushing off vendors who want to access the kernel because Microsoft doesn't have the advanced capabilities that require kernel hooking in their own security software, like Windows Live OneCare. "It's no coincidence that they're not concerned about kernel access because they don't offer these advanced technologies. Now that they're in anti-virus, it's even more convenient for them to not offer [kernel access]," said Rowan Trollope.

Although Symantec, McAfee, and other security vendors are pressuring Microsoft in Vista's 11th hour -- the operating system is scheduled to release to enterprise customers next month, probably after the U.S.'s Thanksgiving holiday -- Microsoft will not delay the operating system to meet their demands. This week, Microsoft's chief executive Steve Ballmer said from Europe that Vista was a "go."

"We are through thatwe're prepared to release our product," Ballmer told Reuters in Brussels.

Windows Vista is to ship on new computers and at retail in January 2007.