Stepping up an extensive IT security campaign, Microsoft has announced a new version of its Internet Explorer web browser that will have new built-in security features. Close to 90pc of web users currently run the Explorer browser.
Microsoft chairman Bill Gates revealed yesterday that version 7.0 of Internet Explorer will provide additional levels of security to users of Windows XP SP2, the operating system that Microsoft released last year in response to security concerns. According to Microsoft, there are more than 170 million copies of XP SP2 now in use.
Internet Explorer 7.0 will provide even stronger defences against phishing scams, malicious software and spyware, Microsoft said. A beta version of the browser is slated to be available this summer. The security features in the browser will also be included in the next release of Windows, codenamed “Longhorn”, that is scheduled for launch in 2006.
Speaking at the RSA Conference in California, Gates talked about his company’s efforts to make systems more secure. “We spend over US$6bn a year on research and development. I’d say that over a third of that is directly security-focused, and the other two-thirds all tie in and relate to that security work, all the new code being reviewed and going through the threat model.”
The browser announcement is the latest in a series of moves by the world’s largest software company to address perceived security weaknesses in its product set. In the last six months alone it has released XP SP2, which fixed several vulnerabilities in earlier versions of the Windows XP operating system. In addition, it acquired the anti-spyware provider Giant Software in December and followed this up with a proposed purchase of the anti-virus software developer Sybari in January.
Gates also dropped the broadest hint yet that Microsoft intends to compete head on with established security software providers such as Symantec and McAfee. “In the area of AV (anti-virus), we can also say that we’re on a path to deliver a product that includes AV capabilities broadly to consumers by the end of this year.”
By Gordon Smith