Security Tightened in Windows Server 2003

With the final release of Windows Server 2003 on the horizon, Microsoft has unveiled efforts it is taking to ensure the first Windows server release in over three years is secure.

The announcement follows a memo sent to customers Thursday by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates noting the progress Redmond has made in its Trustworthy Computing initiative. "As we increasingly rely on the Internet to communicate and conduct business, a secure computing platform has never been more important," Gates wrote.

Microsoft aims to ship Windows Server 2003 with added security right out of the box. Internet Information Services 6.0 will be turned off by default, and when enabled it will use a low-privilege user account to run applications. Remote users will no longer be able to log on to the system using a blank password, a feature security analysts have long criticized.

Internet Explorer will include a new technology dubbed "IE Enhanced Security Configuration," which sets the default security setting to High and requires users to manually enter a list of trusted Web sites before navigating the Internet.

"Windows Server 2003 was designed and built with enhanced security as a top priority," said Bill Veghte, Microsoft's corporate vice president of the Windows Server Division. "Security is obviously a paramount concern for customers, and the new functionality we are delivering in this release will make it easier to create secure infrastructures. Windows Server 2003 delivers the best of both innovative new features, as well as a platform that has been engineered for security."

Microsoft plans to announce additional security resources for Windows Server 2003 in the coming months, including a Secure Configuration Wizard due this summer that is designed to automate security settings across multiple servers.

According to partners, Windows Server 2003 is expected to be released to manufacturing on February 24, 2003, although that date may be pushed back. Microsoft plans to have the new Windows Server on store shelves by April 24. Release Candidate 2 shipped in early December and is available for download through Microsoft's Customer Preview Program.

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