Microsoft today announced a new initiative to help customers improve the security of their networks after a string of high-profile viruses targeted Microsoft software used to run Web sites.
The initiative, Strategic Technology Protection Program, will be in two phases, Get Secure and then Stay Secure.
"With the virus attacks of late and the numbers of those and how vicious those attacks have been ... it's incumbent on Microsoft, being in the leadership position we're in, to help drive forward the industry in this area," Brian Valentine, senior vice president of the Windows Division at Microsoft, said in an interview. "We can't just sit back and think about Microsoft."
Signaling a change in long-standing policy for Microsoft, the company said it will deliver all of its software -- including the next version of IIS that will be bundled with Windows .Net Server next year -- in the "locked down" position by default.
That means the settings will be placed in the most secure configurations when shipped, rather than in the most "open" position, which can leave the computer more vulnerable to hacking, but can offer more immediate and advanced functionality.
Under the new initiative, too, Microsoft will offer a toll-free support line (1-866-727-2338 in the US) customers can call when they are hit by viruses and a free CD that contains fixes for all the vulnerabilities in Windows NT 4.0 and Windows 2000, as well as software to lock down IIS. Microsoft also will help users shut down unused functions, such as Internet printing, that could make their systems more vulnerable to attack. Follow this link to order the Microsoft Security Tool Kit.
Customers will have the option of getting future patches automatically downloaded to their computers from Microsoft's servers.
The company contends that its software is targeted by virus writers and malicious hackers because it is so ubiquitous. Critics have complained, however, that Microsoft software is inherently insecure.
Order: Microsoft Security Tool Kit
Download: Microsoft Security Tool Kit
View: Microsoft Security