Microsoft is pushing the improved security of its Windows Server 2008 software package as one of the primary reasons why business customers should upgrade to the long-awaited product refresh as quickly as possible.
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In addition to being fully designed under Microsoft's SDLC (security development lifecycle) initiative -- a program already credited with allowing Microsoft to ship its products with far fewer vulnerabilities than previous iterations -- Server 2008 has new features that should help customers address a range of important security issues, according to company officials.
Microsoft representatives claim that beefed-up firewall technology, support for the emerging IPv6 Internet protocol, improved onboard encryption and further integration with its Active Directory registry system, among other additions, represent a significant step forward for the release formerly-known as Longhorn in terms of its overall security standing.
The company has also finally delivered its NAP (network access protection) technology -- Microsoft's flavor of the access control tools identified more widely under the banner of NAC (network access control) -- that many security industry watchers have cited as a potential accelerant for device and user network authentication efforts.
Company officials said that the software maker was specifically set on defending the updated infrastructure technology against malware attacks while boosting ID and access control, adding encryption and document protection features, and enhancing the system's reporting and audit functions to handle compliance-related tasks.
As it has claimed Vista to be the safest OS that it has ever shipped, based on the continued adoption of SDLC and added security functionality, Windows Server 2008 follows suit, said Brendon Lynch, director of privacy strategy at Microsoft.
"With the way that information has become the new currency for crime, it is critical for customers to better protect and govern data; part of this process is about people and process, but technology has to serve a role in supporting all this, and we believe that the enhancements made in Server 2008 do just that," Lynch said.
Along with further hardening the software to prevent attacks that attempt to misuse its services and preventing unnecessary interaction with its kernel to thwart root kits, the new filtering, encryption, and Active Directory features should go a long way toward helping customers reduce their attack surface, company officials said.
With NAP, Windows Server 2008 users gain not only a new method for enforcing endpoint device authentication and anti-virus capabilities, but also the ability to integrate their infrastructure more tightly with third-party NAC products, such as those made by networking vendors like Cisco Systems and security players like Symantec.
While Microsoft has often been criticized for failing to align itself closely with IT industry standards, its work to drive interoperability with the Trusted Computing Group's NAC efforts should prove beneficial to users of existing access control and anti-virus technologies, officials said.