Longhorn may pose security concerns

Tuesday, 4 November 2003, 10:30 AM EST

Microsoft is portraying Longhorn, the version of Windows due in about three years, as its most secure operating system ever. But company officials acknowledge that features in Longhorn that blur the boundaries between code that's running online and locally will compel the software maker to better educate developers about online trust.

Microsoft's new programming specs, called WinFX, will let developers create Web applications that launch local programs that consume data from the Internet. At its Professional Developers Conference last week, Microsoft demonstrated a visit to a LexisNexis Web site that launched a program that let users search their hard drives and the Web simultaneously. If those kinds of applications come to pass, software developers will need a more-precise mechanism for controlling the privileges those applications have, says Microsoft senior VP Eric Rudder. "Absolutely, there are security issues with downloading code," he says. Current yes/no controls for downloading applets from the Web are "super coarse-grained," he adds.

Longhorn will include security technology called the Next Generation Computing Base that's supposed to wall off some software programs from important parts of the Windows operating system. But IT managers will still have to decide how to write into software policies that deal with when to grant download rights and how to phrase questions to users, Rudder says.

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