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Vendors claim that being denied access to the core of Vista seriously hampers their ability to protect users

McAfee Inc. has thrown down the gauntlet in its dispute with Microsoft's decision to lock down the core of their Vista operating system. The security software vendor has a full-page ad in today's Financial Times which berates Microsoft.

McAfee argues that Microsoft is making its upcoming Windows Vista operating system far more difficult to protect by locking non-Microsoft processes out of the kernel. Symantec had a similar beef with this move by Microsoft which was reported on recently by Windows IT Pro:

Symantec has also complained about a new security feature called Kernel PatchGuard that prevents software--malicious or otherwise--from altering the Windows kernel at runtime. In the past, security companies have been forced to patch the Windows kernel because so much malicious software does so as well. That process will not be possible in Windows Vista, which should make the system more secure. Symantec wants it removed.

Microsoft claims that this will keep Vista more secure by allowing only certified programs to access vital components of Windows, but McAfee openly mocks this in its advertisement by challenging:

"Microsoft is being completely unrealistic if, by locking security companies out of the kernel, it thinks hackers won't crack Vista's kernel. In fact, they already have."

A Microsoft representative dismissed this accusation, citing a close relationship with security partners during the development of Windows Vista. On the other side of the coin, vendor Trend Micro currently has a beta release of their anti-virus software available for Vista, which may have prompted other companies to suspect preferential treatment.

A scan of the article was unavailable at the time of this posting.

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Consider the source...
By Bonrock on 10/2/2006 4:10:58 PM , Rating: 2
Look, I don't know which side is telling the truth here. In fact, I don't think any of us can tell at this point. But just consider the following:

-The antivirus products from McAfee and Symantec currently operate by patching the OS kernel. Disallowing kernel patching would force these companies to rewrite their antivirus software, which is probably a substantial cost they'd rather not undertake.

-The more secure Windows becomes, the less money McAfee and Symantec stand to make from selling security software.

-McAfee and Symantec are directly competing with Microsoft now that Microsoft makes antivirus and antispyware products. Microsoft's antivirus product will have to be rewritten just as its competitors will, but they're probably farther ahead of schedule since they got started on this right away instead of trying to persuade the Windows team not to prevent kernel patching.

When you consider those points, it's obvious that McAfee and Symantec have many possible motives for opposing Microsoft's decision to disallow kernel patching. As such, it's hard for me to take their words at face value, since they're clearly not just guardian angels looking out for the best interest of consumers (as they claim to be).

I'll take a wait-and-see approach before I decide who's right and who's wrong in this situation.

RE: Consider the source...
By Kougar on 10/2/2006 8:58:47 PM , Rating: 2
Do you have links to MS's anti-virus product? As far as I know they don't have a anti-virus utility. Windows Defender is only for anti-spyware, and Vista even prompts the user to install a 3rd party AV utility.

RE: Consider the source...
By Bonrock on 10/2/2006 10:03:17 PM , Rating: 3
Microsoft's antivirus product is called Windows Live OneCare and the web site is:

Vista prompts you to install an antivirus utility because OneCare doesn't come with the OS; you have to buy it separately (probably due to antitrust concerns). There's a 90-day free trial on the web site and then it's $50/year for up to three computers. If you're considering buying it, I would recommend you check out Amazon instead of buying it directly, since Amazon sells one-year/three-computer subscriptions for just $20.

Oh, it also comes with an improved firewall, improved backup utility, and automatic hard disk defragger. It's actually a surprisingly good deal for what you get.

"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer
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