Calming concerns that there might not be enough specialized security programs available to protect users of Microsoft’s Windows Vista, a range of the company’s security partners have launched anti-virus, anti-spam and Web content-filtering technologies designed for the operating system.
The launches took place during the week of Jan. 15, so as to coincide with the introduction of the consumer iteration of Vista, Microsoft’s first all-new operating system since the launch of Windows XP in 2001.
At one point during 2006, as Microsoft battled with its partners over some of the internal security features built into Vista, most notably the PatchGuard kernel protection program used in 64-bit versions of the operating system, it appeared that some vendors might be forced to delay their products. Major security applications makers, including Symantec and McAfee, claimed at the time that some technological barriers present in Vista might prevent their applications from properly integrating with it.
However, as officials at Microsoft predicted, there are no shortage of Vista-specific security applications available from third-party developers, including McAfee and Symantec.
Industry experts are already predicting that 2007 will be an important year for both the security software market and Microsoft, as traditional players in the space look for new ways to provide add-ons to the software giant’s products while Microsoft advances its own security product plans, increasing competition with its longtime partners.
On Jan. 10, Symantec, based in Cupertino, Calif., announced its plan to build future applications that extend the efficacy of the security features built into Vista, in particular the software’s UAC (User Account Control) technology, which is meant to limit the spread of viruses.
Part of Symantec’s pitch involved criticism of the UAC feature for being too obtrusive and complex for most users to handle on their own. Microsoft officials, in Redmond, Wash., conceded that the company will depend on its partners to help improve the Vista security functions, and will absorb those firms’ negative reviews of its products, while working to improve the tools.
The UAC system informs users via a pop-up warning whenever a software program attempts to make changes to desktop settings. Many viruses try to take over the administrative controls of desktops as they propagate.
“I hear Symantec talking about a mechanism by which administrators and end users can reduce the number of UAC pop-ups, and that’s a valid short-term solution for customers that prefer third-party products, but [in the] long term we will try to address this type of issue ourselves within the platform,” said Ben Fathi, corporate vice president of the Security Technology Unit at Microsoft. “We’ll need to improve on both ours and others’ applications to help make end users more secure, and it’s not just about the OS—you’ll continue to see us improve security in our products, but we will of course work closely with partners as well.”
Introducing the list of third-party Vista security products, Microsoft noted its dependence on other developers to help secure the operating system, and said it would work with its security partners to provide technical support resources, access to application testing and compatibility labs, and developer training and certification programs for the product.
Microsoft said its industry partners “add the final layer” of security by building their aftermarket applications on top of Vista.
Among the companies promising to deliver Vista security products before Jan. 30, 2007, was CA, which announced the availability of its Anti-Virus 2007 package, which promises to provide protection against viruses, worms and Trojan horse programs that can invade through e-mail attachments, downloads, instant messages and Web sites.
As part of the development of the software, which is already on the market, officials with CA, based in Islandia, N.Y., said they tested a beta version of the application with roughly 160,000 people.
ContentWatch, in Salt Lake City, released a Vista-compatible version of its Internet filtering software, which also features remote management, monitoring and reporting, time management, and instant messaging management tools to help monitor users’ Web habits.
Grisoft, based in Millburn, N.J., has shipped versions of its AVG Anti-Virus 7.5 and AVG Anti-Spyware 7.5 applications that are designed to work with Vista, as well as its AVG Anti-Malware 7.5 package, which combines the two stand-alone technologies.
Houston-based messaging security specialist IMSafer announced a Vista-ready version of its eponymous IM content scanning application, which will also include new logging and reporting functions.
Kaspersky Lab, based in Woburn, Mass., said it is prepping Vista versions of its Anti-Virus and Internet Security products, promising comprehensive threat protection with a minimal impact on desktop system resources.
McAfee, headquartered in Santa Clara, Calif., released a range of Vista-specific products, including new versions of its VirusScan Plus 2007, PC Protection Plus 2007 and Internet Security Suite 2007 applications, as well as its Total Protection 2007, Wireless Protection 2007 and SiteAdvisor technologies.
Panda Software, in Glendale, Calif., released a Vista-compatible iteration of its flagship Antivirus 2007 package, as well as new versions of its ClientShield enterprise security suite. The firm also announced that it would soon deliver Panda Internet Security 2007 Identity Protect for Vista, which promises to help protect online transactions and confidential data.
Image security specialist PixAlert, in Westford, Mass. is making a version of its SafeScreen package available for Vista. The software aims to provide real-time monitoring of online images to block out unwanted content such as pornography.
Parental control software maker SafeBrowse.com, in Acworth, Ga., said it has created a Vista-ready version of its Safe Eyes program, which provides online content control and IM monitoring capabilities.
Anti-virus market leader Symantec announced a new version of its Norton Confidential online transaction security package, as well as its flagship Norton Internet Security and Norton AntiVirus products, all tailored to work with Vista.
Finally, Trend Micro, also based in Cupertino, released an updated version of its AntiVirus and AntiSpyware suite.