RSA Conference 2007: Microsoft's Mundie and Gates kick things off

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Microsoft helped to kick off the RSA Conference this morning with a joint keynote from Chairman Bill Gates and Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie on the changing risk environment and the ways the company is working with the rest of the industry to adapt.

"The threat landscape has evolved in fairly dramatic ways," Mundie said, noting that the script kiddies of yesterday are nothing compared to the bad guys of present time. "Today it is a lot more serious and nefarious than it was five years ago."

As a testament to the looming transition next year when Mundie takes over Gates' role after the Microsoft founder relinquishes operational control of the company, much of the keynote was led by the Microsoft successor. He said that because of increased connectivity and the proliferation of mobile devices, the challenge of the changing threat landscape is only going to get tougher.

"It is up to us — not just Microsoft, but the entire industry — to find some strategy to deal with that," Mundie said.

Many of the solutions Microsoft presented today revolved around better access and identity control. Mundie and Gates spent some time touting the capabilities of IPv6 and the IPsec protocol as a way that organisations can enable connectivity without giving away too much information to unknown entities such as vendors, contractors and partners.

"We need to move to describe access by policy, not topology," said Mundie, detailing the driver toward the adoption of this technology.

Mundie and Gates also emphasised the importance of moving toward more certificate-based identity management technology. Microsoft is working to make this happen, they explained, announcing the release of Identity Lifecycle Manager 2007 with the addition of Windows CardSpace for Vista, which affords users a better graphical interface for managing their digital certificates.

"We are laying the groundwork so that we can have certificate-based roots of trust," Gates said, emphasising that the company and the industry are still a few years away from realising their goals in this area.

Mundie will likely be the one to ultimately lead Microsoft toward this goal. He closed the keynote by telling the audience that he looks forward to giving an update at next year’s RSA Conference.

"I want to be the patron of security and trustworthy computing at Microsoft as we move forward," he said.
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