Data security remains major challenge, says Gates

07 Feb 2007
00:00

(Associated Press via NewsEdge) Keeping information secure in this age of laptop-lugging workers is the tech industry's most formidable challenge, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said.

Speaking to an annual gathering of 15,000 computer security experts in San Francisco, Gates invoked the metaphor of a medieval castle to explain the problem: Programmers build bigger moats and thicker fortress walls, but they don't bother to protect the corporate crown jewels when members of their fiefdom exit the castle and leave the drawbridge open.

'We used to think of the data center as a glass house that was very isolated,' Gates said. 'But if we look (at) what actually goes on, consultants come into your company, employees who are not onsite need full access, we cannot think of that glass house as the way to define what can connect to what. We need a far more powerful paradigm.'

Gates repeated Microsoft's claim that Windows Vista, which launched last month, was the most secure operating system in the company's history.
But he acknowledged that all software has 'weak links,' particularly when thieves steal servers with confidential information, or when employees use simple, obvious passwords on multiple accounts.

Instead of passwords, Gates favors 'public key certificates,' combinations of digital signatures and other identifying information such as a person's name, address, social security number and other data. He calls it the 'identity metasystem.'

Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer, said the software industry still views computer security in a dangerously outmoded way.

'It's like we've been in the medieval age of network protection. We build thicker walls, higher turrets, put drawbridges in front of the fortress,' Mundie said. 'What we didn't see coming was the airplane and the long-range missile.'

© 2007 The Associated Press

© 2007 Dialog, a Thomson business. All rights reserved

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