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2005 Windows security predictions from the editor

Your editor shares her market predictions for the upcoming year.

Months of research and speaking with Windows experts and users like yourself has helped me develop the following list of 2005 predictions for the Windows security market. Please send an e-mail to let me know if you agree or disagree with any items on the list -- or if you have something to add. Happy New Year and good luck with all of your Windows security endeavors in 2005!

  • Spyware will overtake the enterprise
    The bad news is Windows professionals will continue to lose their battles with spyware in 2005. The good news is vendors will respond with more comprehensive and robust antispyware tools. Using two or more simple scanners -- the common solution used to ward off spyware today -- will not be a viable option any longer as spyware becomes a key method for attackers to infect and take over Windows networks. Expect to see the antispyware tool market narrow to a few key players with more comprehensive and automated spyware protection and prevention offerings. Also watch for antivirus vendors to finally join the fray as software companies like Microsoft continue to dip their toe in the antispyware waters. I don't expect to see a cure for spyware in the next year, but I think product options will greatly improve with increased demand and competition.
  • Firefox forces Microsoft to take notice
    Microsoft will continue to lose marketshare to Firefox without drastic security improvements. Firefox's Mozilla has become an alternative to the vulnerable Internet Explorer, which experiences more severe exploits that often take longer to fix than it's open source competitor. Many more users will realize it's not good business or IT sense to maintain Internet Explorer as their default Web browser, and Firefox's success in the enterprise over time will eventually force Microsoft to port Internet Explorer fixes to pre-Server 2003 versions of Windows -- or overhaul the vulnerability-laden Web browser completely.
  • Interoperability initiatives spread
    Security interoperability will no longer be an option for Microsoft partners as the software giant continues to lead the way in developing open, standards-based solutions. More vendors will join Microsoft's Network Access Protection (NAP) initiative, designed to offer application programming interfaces (APIs) for Microsoft partners to link their products directly to Microsoft remote access servers -- giving IT professionals the ability to enforce and control network policies at multiple levels. NAP won't be fully available until at least 2007, when the new Microsoft Longhorn server is released. But such initiatives will make interoperability essential to vendors that want to be successful beyond 2005, and it will encourage Windows administrators to take a more proactive approach to security.
  • IT professionals get proactive
    In light of ever-increasing Windows security issues (spyware threats, the NT support deadline, constant patching demands and continued Internet Explorer exploits), IT professionals will have no choice but to get proactive about Windows security. 2005 will see more administrators looking for Windows security training and solutions to help them shift away from reactionary, put-out-the-fire practices to more proactive, plan-ahead measures. Microsoft improvements to Windows Server 2003 and future releases will also make it simpler for administrators to configure security and harden systems from the start.
  • Regulations will make identity management essential
    If not already, IT professionals will become accountable for ensuring that their security policies meet regulatory requirements, particularly as new regulations arise and compliance with current regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA is put into effect. As a result, many more robust auditing and reporting tools will come to market in 2005 to monitor user identities, user access and help ensure security policies are effective.

  • Third-party personal firewalls will gain respect (As noted in Kevin Beaver's 2005 Windows security predictions)
    Third-party personal firewall vendors will continue to stay one step ahead of Microsoft by way of innovative features like outgoing-application detection and protocol-anomaly detection. But more importantly personal firewall software as a whole will gain greater attention. Many people believe personal firewalls are an essential security component for vulnerable Windows machines; a company firewall may be enough to protect Windows machines from external Internet threats, but not threats that are already inside. Thanks to the inclusion of Microsoft's Windows Firewall in XP SP2 and the upcoming Windows Server 2003 SP1, personal firewalls will become standard in the enterprise -- then administrators will just have to turn them on.

    Reader Feedback

    Member Andrew M. says: I believe that next year "phishing" attempts will become more and more sophisticated and maybe coordinated with DNS hijacking, "real" Web site hacking and possibly even malicious code execution, to increase the effectiveness of username and password capture by the baddies.

    Member Paul R. says: For the most part, I agree with your predictions... however, I take some exception to your statement regarding spyware. While I certainly acknowledge it as an issue, even as a major issue, I disagree that it will "overtake" the enterprise. If, as you state further on in your predictions, IT professionals become more proactive, and if (and this is a BIG IF) IT management ( the people who sign the checks) acknowledge that IT security is not to be eliminated, overlooked, minimized or ignored, the battle against spyware can at least be kept to a holding action.

    I also wish to emphatically agree with your position on personal firewalls - my favorite saying these days is "Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean there's no one out to get you."

    One thing I would like to add: as a network professional with the benefit of storage and security certifications and training (Adaptec, CompTIA and GIAC), it would be nice if IT hiring managers would allow those with training, interest and/or certification to "break into" the security field without having multiple years of experience in security (sort of a catch-22). The need is there, there are qualified professionals available, but hiring managers not seeing the title "Security Auditor" or "Network Security Administrator" or "Security Analyst" on a resume give short shrift to all of us aspiring security professionals.

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