Second SP2 Release Candidate Slated for May

Before the finals bits are released this summer, a second release candidate of Windows XP Service Pack 2 will be released mid-May. Microsoft issued a technical preview of SP2 in March to familiarize developers with the changes it was making to secure Windows, and to ward off potential problems brought about by applications malfunctioning post upgrade.

Under the umbrella of its Trustworthy Computing initiative, Microsoft has fortified Windows XP with a new mix of security features. Service Pack 2 will include a new version of Internet Explorer, which for the first time includes a pop-up blocker and download manager; improved memory protection designed to avert buffer overruns; e-mail safeguards for Outlook Express; a more comprehensive firewall implementation; and a new set of security settings for Windows Media Player 9.

Microsoft secured networking by reducing privileges assigned to system services such as Remote Procedure Call (RPC). In addition, the Windows product team has redesigned its Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM) by adding granular COM permissions.  Microsoft has also disabled the much maligned Messenger service by default.

Control over security features will be centrally administered via the new Windows Security Center. Security Center manages Active X Controls, runs checks for the third-party antivirus protection, manages automatic updates, and controls the Windows Firewall. The new software is the brainchild of feedback Microsoft gained during its PC Satisfaction trial.

Service Pack 2 will bundle the Lonestar upgrade for Tablet PCs, as well as support for Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition.

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