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Microsoft's Security Bundle Goes Beta

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) on Tuesday began publicly beta testing its family of next-generation security tools.

Codenamed "Stirling," the package will include upcoming versions of the company's Forefront-branded Client Security, Server Security, Edge Security, and Access products along with a unified management console. The company also said that Microsoft Internet Security and Acceleration Server (ISA Server) will be renamed to Forefront Threat Management Gateway.

The bundle entered private beta testing last year, after being introduced at Microsoft's Tech Ed 2008 conference in early June. The finished commercial release of Stirling is slated for sometime in the first half of 2009.

Microsoft's main pitch for Stirling is that it provides a centralized management console that works with an integrated set of security tools to provide a deep level of security.

"'Stirling' is an integrated security system that is designed to deliver comprehensive, coordinated protection, making it easy to control, access and manage security capabilities across an organization’s IT infrastructure," Microsoft said in a statement. "[The package] includes a central management console for security configuration and enterprise-wide visibility, combined with the next-generation Forefront products that span the client, server and network edge."

Microsoft acquired the basic product set in June 2005 when it bought out enterprise security developer Sybari Software for its Antigen technologies. The company subsequently rebranded the products with the Forefront name at Tech Ed 2006.

One new feature coming with Stirling called Dynamic Response aims to enable the products to share security information systemwide, automatically responding to threats "across multiple layers of the IT infrastructure …. Dynamic Response is designed to help businesses proactively protect their IT environment and respond more quickly," the company statement added.

Additionally, Microsoft also said Threat Management Gateway will be built on Windows Server 2008, and plans to make more details on the gateway public later this year.

Information on downloading the public beta test version of Stirling is available Here.

An evolving threat

Craig Mundie, Microsoft's Chief Research and Strategy Officer, spoke at the big RSA security conference Tuesday. He said the security threat landscape has changed significantly over the 15 years he's been at the software giant.

"As we sit here in 2008, it's clear to me that despite huge progress on the security side, it's more remedial than proactive," said Mundie.

"Five or six year ago so much was on the desktop and laptop," he continued. "Today it's more about services. We've made a lot of progress in network security, but the number of physical threats, like the use of thumb drives, are changing the way the bad guys seek data (by gaining) remote access. "

David Needle, West Coast Bureau Chief for InternetNews.com, contributed to this story.