RealTime IT News

Is Secure Computing Coming Soon?

SAN FRANCISCO -- The computer industry is saddled with old computers and outdated software among much of its user base and reactive security solutions that aren't always effective.

That gloomy assessment from HP's vice president and CTO of services came toward the end of a largely upbeat discussion on his company's manageability and security solutions.

"We're the cheerleaders for security across the company," HP's Tony Redmond told a small group of reporters in a briefing here. "We can't ship products without security and make sure that everything works right to support our security strategy."

But while Redmond thinks HP has its security act together, he says the bigger challenge for the industry is dealing with legacy systems ill-suited to fend off increasingly complex and virulent outbreaks of computer viruses, spyware and the like.

"The PC has been a business platform since IBM introduced it in 1981. That's 25 years," Redmond told internetnews.com. "We need a new generation of hardware and software where trustworthiness is fundamentally built in."

In its earnings call yesterday, Intel CEO Paul Otellini said the chip giant would be introducing its first brand designed for enterprise manageability about mid-year. The new processor, code-named Conroe, is a dual-core 64-bit chip.

Otellini said the timing for the introduction would be appealing to enterprises looking for Vista-ready desktops.

Vista is the successor to Microsoft's Windows XP operating system for desktop computers, and has more security features. But Vista isn't due until the end of this year, and enterprise customers typically take a few years to move to a new architecture.

"There are so many old versions of Windows out there," said Redmond. "You have to give people a reason to move from XP, and Vista does that."

Still, he said that enterprises typically don't like to migrate in pieces. They are more likely to migrate to Vista when the new Office 12 applications suite and other Vista apps are available and perhaps even wait for Longhorn, the server version of Vista, which isn't due till next year at the earliest.

"My belief is there will be a more gradual acceptance at the corporate level," said Redmond.

He said the addition of features such as secure boot make Vista important along with add-ons like HP's Protect Tools, but "it could conceivably take a decade after Vista ships before [most all users can assume] a true trustworthy environment."

Today Redmond said there are two paths to try and ensure a secure environment.

One strategy is to be "hyperactive," using all the security tools available, and take great care in what files you accept in e-mail and over networks. "But [viruses and spyware] can still hit you."

The more likely scenario, Redmond said, is that users come to accept what sounds very much like the parental controls families use to monitor their kids' Internet use.

"You take away a little openness and only run stuff that adware and spyware can't get at," said Redmond. "I won't guarantee that Vista [and other technologies] eliminate the threats, but people will have a platform that is more resistant to the vast bulk of threats out there."