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Tech Giants Declare, 'United We Stand'

By Cynthia L. Webb
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Monday, October 18, 2004; 9:29 AM

Tough times often make for strange bedfellows, and the explosion of viruses, computer worms and spyware programs on the Internet is producing unique alliances among top technology firms.

Case in point is this morning's news that Microsoft Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. are collaborating on computer security issues. The alliance hammers home the increasing realization in tech circles that the Lone Ranger approach to computer security just won't work, and with lots of money in lost sales, worker productivity and fried hardware at stake, it just makes sense to work together.

_____About Filter_____
Filter looks at the day's top technology news through snapshots and analysis of what the world's media outlets are covering. Washingtonpost.com's new Mon.-Fri. feature is penned by technology reporter Cynthia L. Webb. If a technology story breaks, a company falters or triumphs, or there's a new trend in technology, Filter wants you to know about it.

_____Filter Archive_____
Tech Sector's Mixed Signals (washingtonpost.com, Oct 19, 2004)
Google's Search For Dominance (washingtonpost.com, Oct 15, 2004)
iMac, iPod, iConquered (washingtonpost.com, Oct 14, 2004)
Supremes Quietly Change Piracy Debate (washingtonpost.com, Oct 13, 2004)
Opening the Living Room Windows (washingtonpost.com, Oct 12, 2004)
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The Associated Press noted the obvious about the two new partners: Cisco and Microsoft have both been hit hard by security problems. "Microsoft's Windows operating system and server software have been particularly hard hit, with attackers using flaws in its products to launch assaults that have slowed or crippled some of Microsoft's biggest corporate clients. In response, Microsoft has begun an initiative to improve the security of its products and recently released a massive security fix for its Windows XP operating system. Cisco also has been a target. In a high-profile incident in July 2003, the networking equipment maker was hit by hackers who attempted to bring down Cisco equipment that carries the bulk of the world's Internet traffic. Many companies were forced to work quickly to install a patch or find other solutions."
The Associated Press via The Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Microsoft and Cisco Team Up On Security

The Cisco-Microsoft move is also "an attempt to address concerns that the two high-tech giants were headed in different directions," the Wall Street Journal reported. "In the past year, Cisco, the dominant maker of computer-networking equipment, and Microsoft, whose software runs the vast majority of personal computers and many corporate computer servers, had each laid out strategies for protecting corporate networks from threats such as worms and viruses. Both approaches generally would require computers to be checked for viruses and antivirus software before they are allowed access to a corporate network. But the two approaches differed in many technical details, including which machines would run the protective software. That prompted concerns from corporate tech managers, most of whom rely on both Cisco, San Jose, Calif., and Microsoft, Redmond, Wash."

The Journal said the two companies "would share technical details, integrate their technologies, and push for industrywide standards. There are no deadlines or timetables. Still, the companies 'understand that collaboration is key to addressing and minimizing' threats from worms and viruses, said Bob Kelly, general manager of Microsoft's Windows Server group."
The Wall Street Journal: Cisco and Microsoft to Cooperate On Computer-Security Issues (Subscription required)

The AP report speculated on when this collaboration might make a difference for computer users: "The companies plan to make those systems compatible by 2007, when Microsoft releases the next version of its Windows server software. That would allow corporations to better secure Microsoft's Windows software and Cisco's network infrastructure in one sweep, saving time and money. The system would screen a new computer for viruses or other threats as it enters a corporate network. The goal is to prevent an infected computer from passing the threats to the rest of the network."

CNET's News.com explained that the partnership "will allow them to share technology and integrate security features on Cisco's networking gear and Microsoft's server and desktop products. Earlier this year, each of the companies introduced its own 'end to end' security architecture. Unfortunately for customers, the proposed architectures were not interoperable. Because the companies had not officially pledged they would work together, customers feared they would be forced to choose between a Cisco implementation or one from Microsoft. But now, the companies say that customers will not be forced into a tough either/or decision." More from the article: "The Cisco and Microsoft architectures are part of a new movement in information technology that treats security more holistically. As the cost of fighting and cleaning up after worms and viruses mounts, corporate customers are looking for solutions that combine traditional virus scanning with network policing to keep attacks from ever entering the network in the first place. As a result, both the Cisco and Microsoft approaches are concerned not only with scanning for viruses but also with policing networks to deny connections to machines that don't conform with security policies."
CNET's News.com: Cisco, Microsoft Pledge Security Interoperability

Here's Cisco's take on the partnership, from a PR-polished Q&A on the company's Web site today: "It is clear that the threat from viruses, worms, hackers and other attacks presents a major challenge for organizations. This integration effort aims to help customers better utilize their existing investments in Microsoft and Cisco's products and technologies. The collaboration has the bottom-line goal of improving the security of our customers' networked systems and information assets while reducing the costs of security management. In working with Microsoft, Cisco is again demonstrating its leadership in network security by developing new approaches and technologies for protecting IT resources," said Jayshree Ullal, senior vice president of Cisco's Security and Technology Group.

Cisco and Microsoft were both part of a conference on information security in New Delhi last week, sponsored by India's National Association of Software and Service Companies and the U.S. high-tech trade group, the Information Technology Association of America.
The Associated Press via The San Jose Mercury News: India, U.S. Experts Discuss Cybersecurity Cooperation (Registration required)

Dell Joins Spyware Fight

Dell Inc. is the latest company to sign up for the broader industry fight against spyware. The Texas-based company is partnering with the nonprofit Internet Education Foundation -- a coalition whose members include everyone from AOL to Microsoft to Yahoo -- to educate consumers about the online scourge. "The IEF and Dell released a survey conducted last month of 742 Internet users taken from a representative sample of 1,000 adults nationwide. The survey showed 39% felt less secure online than they did a year ago, while 33% feel more secure, 26% feel the same as they did and 2% were unsure. Mike George, vice president and general manager of Dell's U.S. consumer business, says that since January, more customers have called Dell seeking relief from spyware than any other technical support issue," Dow Jones Newswires reported. There's more info. on the IEF's efforts at getnetwise.org.
Dow Jones Newswires via The Wall Street Journal: Dell to Teach Customers How To Fight Against Spyware (Subscription required)


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