Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Microsoft Acquires Winternals Software

Wow, big news! Microsoft has acquired one of the most useful and innovative software companies ever to attempt to improve on Microsoft's products. Mark Russinovich is one of the most intelligent and creative people I have ever met. Some of the products he releases for free on the Sysinternals site are worth more than some paid products. And the Winternals products are equally impressive. Mark, if you don't know him, was the person who broke the news 10 years ago that you could turn NT Workstation into NT Server by making a simple registry change.

So this is undoubtably a good move for Microsoft, but is it a good move for Mark? The answer depends on what Microsoft lets him work on. His title is Technical Fellow, which has traditionally been a position that gets a lot of leeway in the creative process. If Mark can use his new insider influence in the same manner he has done things with Winternals, look for some very positive changes in Microsoft products, at least from the perspective of IT tools and ease of management.

Microsoft Acquires Winternals Software

Company appoints operating systems kernel expert Mark Russinovich as Technical Fellow.

Microsoft Corp. today announced the acquisition of Winternals Software LP, a privately held company based in Austin, Texas, that provides Windows®-based enterprises with systems recovery and data protection solutions in addition to offering a freeware tools Web site called Sysinternals. The addition of Winternals is a significant advance in Microsoft's promise to lower customers' total cost of ownership of the Microsoft® Windows platform. Customers will be able to continue building on Sysinternals' advanced utilities, technical information and source code for utilities related to Windows. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.Winternals was established in 1996 by Mark Russinovich and Bryce Cogswell, who are recognized industry leaders in the areas of operating system design and architecture. Russinovich will join the Microsoft Platforms & Services Division as a technical fellow, working with numerous technology teams across Microsoft, and Cogswell will join the Windows Component Platform Team in the role of software architect.

Winternals Software - Products

Want to know Mark's perspective? Here's his blog entry on the subject:

On My Way to Microsoft!

I’m very pleased to announce that Microsoft has acquired Winternals Softwareand Sysinternals. Bryce Cogswell and I founded both Winternals andSysinternals (originally NTInternals) back in 1996 with the goal ofdeveloping advanced technologies for Windows. We’ve had anincredible amount of fun over the last ten years working on a widerange of diverse products such as Winternals Administrator’s Pak,Protection Manager, Defrag Manager, and Recovery Manager, and thedozens of Sysinternals tools, including Filemon, Regmon and ProcessExplorer, that millions of people use every day for systemstroubleshooting and management. There’s nothing more satisfyingfor me than to see our ideas and their implementation have a positiveimpact.

Mark's Sysinternals Blog: On My Way to Microsoft!

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Stop Being Stupid; It's Free: Hard Disk Encryption

I have to call your attention to this great article by Marcus Ranum. If you don't know who Marcus is, he's the Chief of Security for Tenable Network Security, the company that makes Nessus and NeWT. He is the author of a number of thought-provoking articles on computer security. He also has some entertaining items on his site, including a Computer Security Calendar.

Now that I have filled you in on the author, let me tell you about the article. It's about how easy (and free) it is to set up disk encryption on your computer using a product called TrueCrypt.

Stop Being Stupid; It's Free

I'm not sure why I've been so cavalier about my data since then, but to tell you the truth I've never bothered with hard disk encryption, personally. I think part of it was that I didn't particularly care if anyone got my data, because I like to live an open life, but it's been slowly sinking in that there's no sense making life easy for the bad guys. If I can rob some phisher, hacker, or spammer of a moment's pleasure at little cost to myself, that seems like a worthy goal.

After a few days of researching I stumbled across a thing called TrueCrypt. It meets a lot of my requirements, namely:

  • Free
  • Uses recognizable and known encryption algorithms
  • Works sensibly with a container file that can be treated as external data (i.e.: backed up to tape entire)
  • Source code available
  • No adware or "wouldn't you like to buy me now?" bullshit
  • Small footprint

Now, it's not as if I'm going to go through and review the entire source code of the engine but I like the fact that it's being developed openly and (as far as I can tell) is part of a project that is not socially or financially beholden to anyone.

A Nice Surprise

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Monday, July 10, 2006

The Weakest Link in Network Security

I found this excellent article on Entrepreneur.com.  It spells out some of the inherent risks in Information Security that come with the reality of giving access to users.  Many things can happen as a result of carelessness that can devastate even a well-protected network.

The recommendations in this article provide an excellent starting point for providing protection against the human element of Information Technology.

The Weakest Link in Network Security
Viruses and spyware threaten your data security--but carelessness can be an even bigger threat.
July 10, 2006
By Peter Alexander

Your small-business network may be protected by firewalls, intrusion detection and other state-of-the-art security technologies. And yet, all it takes is one person's carelessness, and suddenly it's as if you have no network security at all.

Let me give you an example. In March 2006, a major financial services firm with extensive network security disclosed that one of its portable computers was stolen. The laptop contained the Social Security numbers of nearly 200,000 people. How did it happen? An employee of the firm, dining in a restaurant with colleagues, had locked the laptop in the trunk of a SUV. During dinner, one of the employee's colleagues retrieved an item from the vehicle and forgot to re-lock it. As fate would have it, there was a rash of car thefts occurring in that particular area at that particular time, and the rest is history.

The moral of that story is clear: No matter how secure your network may be, it's only as secure as its weakest link. And people--meaning you and your employees--are often the weakest link. It's important to note that poor security puts your business, as well as your partners, at risk. As a result, many enterprises and organizations, such as credit-card companies, now specify and require minimum levels of security you must have in order to do business with them.

The Weakest Link in Network Security

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