Microsoft Expands Offerings in Security

Vendor enhances two products and outlines a strategic shift that could spell new competition for other security vendors active in the channel.

Microsoft recently enhanced two of its security offerings and detailed a shift in strategy that could end up roiling competitors in the antivirus sector.

On the enhanced products side, Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) released the second beta of its Forefront Threat Management Gateway (TMG) for download. This follows its release last week of Forefront Security for Exchange Server Service Pack 1 (SP1).

The company  also announced Beta 2 of TMG in a blog by Bill Jensen, senior product manager for TMG. The product will focus on web security.  Microsoft is positioning TMG as a possible replacement for antivirus packages from other vendors.

"With TMG customers can continue working with existing antivirus vendors, but they can consolidate their AV products by replacing them with TMG if they want," Jensen said.

However TMG's competitive threat goes beyond that. Together with Forefront Security for Exchange Server SP1, it provides a large security blanket. "Threat Management Gateway protects virtual private networks (VPNs) and traffic coming into the company, while Forefront Security for Exchange Server protects e-mails,"  said Don Retallack, research vice president at Directions on Microsoft.

Web Security Threats

TMG Beta 2 will include Web anti-malware, HTTPS inspection, and a network inspection system. HTTPS is used to encrypt web traffic. Experts expect web-based threats will increase this year.

"More and more people are allowing employees to access the web, which improves productivity, but is a security curse," Jensen said. "Even legitimate web sites have become a threat vector, so you need a way to control these Web-based threats."

TMG Beta 2's Web anti-malware feature is designed to inspect HTTP traffic for malware and viruses, unencrypting HTTPS traffic, inspecting it for malware and then re-encrypting it. "HTTPS is a big black hole for firewalls, and something needs to be done to address the situation," Jensen said.

However, system administrators set TMG so they do not decrypt and scan private traffic to avoid privacy and confidentiality issues, Retallack noted.

TMG Beta 2 replaces Microsoft's Internet Security and Acceleration Server (ISA), which has been in the market since 2000, Jensen said. Retallack of Directions on Microsoft said TMG supports Windows Server 2008 and 64-bit versions of Microsoft's products. "ISA Server 2006 will not be ported to Windows Server 2008 or 64-bit, so people who have it and want to go to either of those will have to upgrade to TMG. That's a fair step."

Retallack said TMG has been updated with configuration wizards to simplify its use. "If you don't configure a firewall properly you leave yourself open to security problems or can prevent legitimate users from getting through, so configuration wizards are very helpful for system administrators," he explained.

Scan Engine Integration

Meanwhile, Forefront Security for Exchange Server SP1 integrates multiple scan engines from leading security firms into a layered solution to protect messages on Microsoft Exchange Server. These engines are from AhnLab, Authentium, CA (NASDAQ: CA), Kaspersky Labs, Norman Data Defense, Microsoft itself, Sophos and VirusBuster. "This gives you defense in depth," Microsoft's Jensen said.

Partner companies, which could become competition as well, understand the need to partner. After all, security experts advocate that enterprises take a layered approach to defense, especially as hackers deploy a combination of techniques to launch attacks and assure they get past any single layer of protection.

Forefront Security for Exchange SP1 supports Exchange Server 2007 SP1 and Windows Server 2008, according to its product page.

It also includes support for IPv6 , the next generation of Internet Protocol. And it provides Microsoft System Center Operations Manager (MOM) with information on critical events and alerts on virus and worm activity.

TMG Beta 2's release comes nine months after the vendor unveiled the first beta, in April. Jensen said Beta 3, which will be released soon, will include Web URL filtering, and TMG will be released to market in the second half of this year.

Forefront, of which TMG is a part, was formerly code-named Stirling.

(This article was adapted from InternetNews.com.)


TAGS: Windows,security,Microsoft,CA

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