AntiOnline Spotlight: SP2 Tackles Windows Security

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AntiOnline: Maximum Security for a Connected World

The past several months have not been kind to network administrators, not to mention the average Windows user.

Windows machines have played host to worms that, in turn, have lead to the biggest 'net-clogging incidents in history. And as if keeping their own networks clean wasn't enough of a challenge, sysadmins have also had to deal with exasperated calls and emails (adorned with little red exclamation marks, no less) from remote and home office workers.

So it is with guarded optimism that Windows users are waiting for Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2). SP2, currently in beta, promises to confront many of the security shortcomings that have made Windows the premiere breeding ground of worms, viruses, trojans and Web scams.

Of course, we don't absolve virus and worm authors of their sins. But wagging your finger at them and chastising them with a stern "Shame on you!" doesn't fix matters. So it's up to Microsoft and its partners to take action, though it wouldn't hurt users to patch their systems once in a while.

SP2, at first glance, seems like a step in the right direction as it appears primed to render a ton of today's most common exploits harmless. Plus those of you with eyeing future AMD64 processors (Opteron, Athlon64) get the added bonus of protection against buffer overruns.

Maybe this year, sysadmins won't cringe when their phones ring. Hope springs eternal...

Note: The opinions expressed below are solely those of the individual posters on the AntiOnline forums.

Direct link to this week's spotlight thread:
Understanding the future security of Windows SP2

pooh sun tzu bravely volunteered to take SP2 beta for a spin for the sake of helping the AO community. Here is some of what pooh has found...

Recently there was a large topic debating Microsoft's soon-to-be released SP2 patch, which would include many security fixes, changes to the OS, and build in functionality such as firewall configuration. The time has come to put things to rest, and show a few people what SP2 will be doing to help make Windows XP an amazingly secure box with the tools to do it at your fingertips, while giving a glimpse into how secure Longhorn will be.

Internet Connection Firewall

On by default. What once was a horrible use of firewall technology has sprung up to a level near to that of ZoneAlarm Pro. This is a huge upgrade in terms of enhanced and maintained security.

- It has it's own specific icon on the Control Panel for much easier access to new users.

- It has advanced firewall rule set handling and configuration. Making rule exceptions for protocol, port, or program exe name based (or a combination), we can see the possibilities.

- Profile based settings for multiple connections, save settings to a profile for multiple NIC handling. Windows will also notify you when a program tries to access the Internet that is not listed in the rule set.

Internet Explorer Security Enhancements

IE now comes with quite a few features to make browsing much more enjoyable and secure. While the plug-in feature is commonplace in other browsers, don't forget to be merely happy that they did finally put it in IE.

- Pop up window blocking! Built-in, and with settings that look strikingly similar to Firebird. Wildcards allowed as well.

- You can now manage add-ons, plug-ins, and features built into IE from third party software not directly related to the IE software.

...and much more. For those that want visual confirmation, don't miss the screenshots!Naturally, many will need some convincing. .:front2back:. tells us...
Interesting read that was, although it still doesn't convince me that Microsoft is any better. Just give it time, and there will be another patch for another vulnerability.

It seems that no matter what they do, there always seems to be something not quite right with Microsoft products, it's a label with a huge problem. And to be honest i really don't see this improving anytime soon.

Just look at those leaked source codes, you can see that their programmers don't have a clue on what there doing. I mean what sort of company would let there programmers right source codes, for an important product and let them leaves lines such as "this goes here, well not to sure on that."

The always level-headed MsMittens says...
It'll be interesting to see and personally I won't pass judgment until it's in production and running. I've seen some ugly Service Packs released (I remember SP6 and Lotus Notes -- UGH!). I think one can honestly say that at least they are addressing the issues rather than ignoring them -- and that in itself is a big step up for MS. They have kept to that promise of putting security first.

I'm sort of sad that MS is doing all this. Now I can't say to my students when an MS product doesn't work, "Just remember.. as long as they maintain it like this, you'll be employed."

Will you be among the first to download SP2 when it's available mid-year? What features are you most excited about? Rant, rave or simply lurk by clicking here.

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AntiOnline (AO) is home to many of the most popular network security discussion forums online. Here, participants engage in candid, thought-provoking and enlightening exchanges on the latest hazards and how to protect your systems against them.

We invite you to join the AO community (it's free!), share your wisdom and learn a few things in the process.

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