Microsoft security chip open to discussion

Microsoft Corp. would be prepared to license the intellectual property for its proposed Palladium security chip to any software manufacturer, but certification of that software would be essential if the system is to work, the company's U.K. chief security officer Stuart Okin said Wednesday.

"Last week, details of Palladium were leaked, or squirrelled out by a journalist," Okin said, speaking at Microsoft's Tech Ed conference here. "This is still at a consultation mode and we will issue white papers by the end of the month, and ask for feedback. So nothing is certain yet." Palladium is a security technology that would change the fundamental architecture of a PC, with a security chip installed to ensure security and control what software is run. "It's a combination of hardware and software, a security chip and a public and private key system," he said. "It's designed to guarantee privacy, and to guarantee that if you get rogue software on the machine it'll be moved to a vaulted environment where it can't affect the rest."

This sort of development is necessary if the Internet is to reach its full potential, he said.

"We want people transacting millions of dollars, millions of euros, over open systems, and for that to happen you have to be able to guarantee a source. And that takes a combination of hardware and software," Okin said.

While Palladium would be very powerful in terms of digital rights management, able to tell whether software is licensed, or digital files copied, "its prime function is to ensure security and privacy," he said.

For that to happen, a degree of software restriction is necessary, he said.

"We'll release white papers at the end of the month, and I'd ask people to wait until then, until we have a chance to get feedback. One thing I can guarantee is that it will be 'off' by default, an opt-in technology," he said. "It will live or die by user acceptance."

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and Intel Corp. are working with Microsoft on the idea and have been "very supportive and interested," Okin said. "But there won't be hardware on the market until 2004, 2005, and it'll probably be another two years beyond that before applications are developed."

Okin's position was created four months ago as part of Microsoft's push to "Trustworthy Computing." He acknowledges that the first thing security managers say to him when they meet is "You've got a bad image on security."

"But then they acknowledge that, in fact, we're no better or worse than anyone else, and they are glad we're now talking to them and listening."

Okin disputes any suggestion that Microsoft has been slow to look at security. "It's a subject that's come to the fore recently. The U.K.'s National High Tech Crime Unit has only been running 18 months. The user community has altered enormously in two years -- it's not just 20-year-olds now -- and that's changed the focus. And then there have been viruses, and reports about security in the press. It's just become high profile now."

The U.K. now has about 15 people dedicated to improving Microsoft's security record, working with developers, vendors and customers, Okin said. Other European subsidiaries may follow suit, depending on their size, he said.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gillian Law

Computerworld
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?