Microsoft's latest strategy calls for continued development of a "trusted stack" of IT products and online services, throughout which individual elements will authenticate with one another more comprehensively, reaching from the operating system all the way to end-user devices and applications.
Another prerequisite will be a system that includes elements of authentication and audit, while allowing individuals to preserve their identities online. The company also contends that there is a need for new industry standards and regulations that help the entire ecosystem to survive and flourish, Charney said.
"The things that we've done [at Microsoft] to date are foundational and need to be taken to the next level; we've made the OS more secure, but subsequently, the attacks have moved up the stack into applications," he said. "As an industry and as a society, we've already done a lot of good things to help improve online security, but a lot of the threats are such that we need to push this issue of trust and collaboration not just within the industry, but also with consumer groups, politicians, and privacy advocates."
In terms of the work already being done along these lines, Charney pointed to projects such as the Trusted Computing Group's Trusted Platform Module (TPM) hardware-based encryption standard as an example of the type of initiative that will need to be expanded even further in the coming years.
Microsoft will build hooks for more native systems of security and privacy into everything from its Windows OS and Office products to its own online properties and mobile device technologies, the executives said, but the company's central hope is that its call for action echoes across the RSA conference and the IT community at large, said Charney.
"Work with us, help inform us, we are a technology company, and we're trying to do a better job of engaging with important constituencies, including our governments. The result of those discussions bring into relief how hard these problems are, and how difficult the trade-offs will be," he said. "We're not presumptuous about this; it's easy to pose these questions -- the hard part will be finding the answers."