Competitors bicker over Vista's security features

The Vista Kernal Patch Protection feature, known as PatchGuard, is intended by Microsoft to prevent modifying system structures for purpose of intercepting system calls, said Bruce McCorkendale, Symantec's distinguished engineer. But at Symantec, whose host-based intrusion-prevention and antimalware software works by sometimes using undocumented methods not formally recognized by Microsoft to combat spyware or ward off attacks, the PatchGuard restrictions in Vista will hamper Symantec's effectiveness.

"The behavior blocking, intrusion prevention and tamper protection in our products today will be somewhat degraded by PatchGuard," McCorkendale says. That's because Symantec products have been designed "to use whatever means necessary," he pointed out, to detect and eradicate malware and block attacks that by their nature also use any means possible to undermine Windows security.

"Sometimes when attackers are doing certain things, we turn to 'kernel patching'," McCorkendale says. "This runs afoul of the PatchGuard policy."

"There are legitimate reasons for protecting the kernel and we are not asking Microsoft to disable PatchGuard," McCorkendale says. But he said the security industry would benefit from added APIs for 64-bit Vista that would allow for documented ways to accomplish technical processes such as image-load filtering, memory-management filtering and named-object event filtering to name a few.

"We brought this to the attention of Microsoft 1½ years ago," McCorkendale says. PatchGuard is not a feature in the 32-bit version of Vista, however.

Microsoft says it hasn't seen direct evidence of Authentium's hack of PatchGuard yet. But a Microsoft spokesman said fooling around with PatchGuard presents a potential danger to users of 64-bit Vista, expected to be available for volume license in November.

"Microsoft strongly recommends that software vendors not attempt to bypass Kernal Patch Protection," the spokesman stated. "This has the potential for de-stabilizing and crashing customer systems, particularly in cases where Kernel Patch Protection is enhanced in updates and updates are delivered to customers." To do otherwise, is "putting customers at risk," Microsoft said.

Microsoft said if the PatchGuard mechanism requires a patch, it will be delivered much like another software patch.

Microsoft says it is committed to working with the security industry to identify APIs beyond what is available today that will work with Kernel Patch Protection. But that effort, which will take "several months," is not expected to reach fruition until Vista Service Pack 1, a formal software update, follows at some unspecified date after 64-bit Vista ships. Symantec thinks the timetable is likely to be a year at best.

Not all security vendors appear critical of PatchGuard.

In a statement, Sophos said, "We are building our technology by making use of supported Microsoft interfaces rather than trying to subvert them. That's why we're ready for 64-bit Vista but others aren't."

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags kernalsecurityvista

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ellen Messmer

Network World (US online)
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?