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23 Oct 2006

Symantec and McAfee should have prepared better for Microsoft Windows Vista - Sophos comment

IT security firm Sophos is recommending that system administrators ask their security vendors if they are capable of properly protecting them on the forthcoming 64-bit version of Vista, as arguments continue regarding access to Microsoft's operating system code (kernel). Sophos has reassured its customers that Sophos Anti-Virus will offer full protection against malware threats on Vista, and suggests that some security vendors may not have given sufficient thought to the new operating system when developing their products.

Anti-virus firms Symantec and McAfee have recently made high-profile complaints that they are being "locked out" of the Vista operating system kernel by Microsoft's PatchGuard prevention system (also known as Kernel Patch Protection). They argue that this is preventing them from continuing to develop pro-active protection against new malware, sometimes referred to as 'host intrusion prevention' or 'HIPS'. They claim this action is anti-competitive.

However, Sophos argues that its approach to HIPS technology has met with no problems on both the low-spec and high-spec versions of Windows Vista. In addition, Sophos claims that Microsoft has so far provided all the interfaces that Sophos needs for providing this form of protection.

"Symantec and McAfee may be struggling with HIPS because they haven't coded their solutions with high-spec Vista in mind," said Richard Jacobs, CTO of Sophos. "We've taken a different approach, by focusing on catching bad behaviour before it has a chance to occur. Additionally, we are building our technology by making use of supported Microsoft interfaces rather than by trying to subvert them. That's why we're ready for 64-bit Vista, and others aren't."

Sophos Anti-Virus, including its HIPS functionality, has been designed for 64-bit Windows Vista

Sophos Anti-Virus, including its HIPS functionality, has been designed for 64-bit Windows Vista.

Sophos believes that PatchGuard is a positive step by Microsoft to improve security in Windows Vista, and is not in itself anti-competitive, provided that Microsoft delivers on its commitment to provide the same level of kernel support and integration to third party security vendors as it does to its own security product team.

"It's clearly the case that we and other vendors will now have some dependency on Microsoft to deliver kernel interfaces for new security innovations, which could slow us all down," continued Jacobs. "However this is more than compensated for by the additional security offered by Vista. PatchGuard is a step in the right direction for customers, and we believe that security vendors should embrace and work with PatchGuard rather than fight it."

About Sophos

More than 100 million users in 150 countries rely on Sophos as the best protection against complex threats and data loss. Sophos is committed to providing complete security solutions that are simple to deploy, manage, and use and that deliver the industry's lowest total cost of ownership. Sophos offers award-winning encryption, endpoint security, web, email, mobile and network security solutions backed by SophosLabs - a global network of threat intelligence centers.

Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at