Microsoft's Allchin: Vista won't need antivirus

Update: Comments come at a time when Microsoft is battling with antivirus vendors over access to Vista, and is the subject of an EC anti-competition investigation
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Microsoft co-president Jim Allchin has suggested that some Vista users will not need to run any third-party antivirus software.

Allchin made the comments in a telephone conference with reporters on Wednesday, according to betanews.com. He said that while there was no way of knowing that security perfection had been achieved in Vista, he was confident enough in the operating system to let his seven-year-old use a locked down version without antivirus.

"My son, seven years old, runs Windows Vista and, honestly, he doesn't have an antivirus system on his machine. His machine is locked down with parental controls, he can't download things unless it's to the places that I've said that he could do, and I'm feeling totally confident about that," said Allchin. "That is quite a statement. I couldn't say that in Windows XP SP2."

Allchin said his confidence in Vista came from new security features, including parental controls and Address Space Layout Randomisation, which is a feature that randomises key data areas in the virtual computer space in an effort to foil hacks based on predictable data storage.

But in a blog posting on Friday evening, Allchin insisted that the security features in Microsoft's upcoming Windows Vista operating system do not negate the need to use third-party antivirus software.

"I want to be clear, most users will use some form of antivirus software, and that will be appropriate for their scenarios," he wrote in the post. Allchin also noted that Windows Security Center encouraged the use of antivirus software.

The Microsoft co-president's comments come at a time when Microsoft is battling security vendors over Vista. McAfee and Symantec have both claimed that they have not been granted access to key parts of the operating system, specifically to the kernel of the 64-bit version of Vista, and claim this will hinder their abilities to produce fully functioning antivirus code.

Both antivirus companies have asserted that they need access to PatchGuard, the part of the operating system designed to prevent malicious attacks, to be able to produce effective code.

"Microsoft has yet to provide the interface — filtering APIs — needed to address the issues created by PatchGuard," a Symantec spokeswoman told ZDNet UK on Thursday. "On the 64-bit version of Vista, our products will protect users as much as possible within the limitations that PatchGuard imposes on the entire security software industry."

Microsoft has also been the subject of an EC anti-competition investigation into Patchguard, but it claims to have addressed the EC's concerns through its work with companies, including McAfee and Symantec, to provide APIs.

Allchin has announced his plans to retire from Microsoft following the commercial availability of Vista.

ZDNet Australia's Steven Deare contributed to this report.

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