RealTime IT News

Security Drives Upgraded Windows Server

Microsoft has released its first service pack for Windows Server 2003 with several improvements in security. The upgrade is crucial, because the company is constantly under fire for the safety of its software.

Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1) features stronger default settings and reduced privileges to better keep perpetrators from hijacking users' machines, the company said in a statement.

Microsoft's latest software upgrade also includes a security configuration wizard to help users "reduce the attack surface" by blocking unused services and ports.

The improved Windows firewall, which appeared in Windows XP Service Pack 2, sets group policies for each client and server computer on a customer's network, and it decides who has access to what information.

New security updates in the software also block all inbound connections to the server after installation until Windows Update has delivered the latest security updates to the new computer.

To tighten security, SP1 includes Internet Information Services (IIS) 6.0 Metabase Auditing, which allows administrators to identify potential malicious users should the system become corrupted. The auditing tool also boasts stronger defaults and privilege reduction on services, as well as quarantine control for networks.

"With Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1, our development team took the time to treat the root cause of many security issues, not just the symptoms. This service pack is very significant and should help address certain classes of exploits," said Bob Muglia, senior vice president of the Windows Server Division at Microsoft.

Microsoft has weathered harsh criticism for the lack of security in its software, and is bent on its mission to provide "trustworthy computing" in all phases.

SP1 comes at a time when fears over computer security are rampant, although there have been fewer major viruses or worms of late to knock down Windows systems.

The security threat most in vogue these days seems to be database breaches by hackers trolling for customers' personal data, including the attacks on ChoicePoint and a handful of universities

Microsoft meanwhile tested a number of Windows-based devices for compatibility with SP1, as well as firewall, database, anti-virus, business intelligence and Web development applications to make sure the changes work.

Customers can download SP1 free for the next 60 days.

In related news, Microsoft released Windows Server 2003 x64 Editions and Windows XP Professional x64 Edition to manufacturing, with availability sometime in April.