Aug 4, 2004

Windows XP gets serious about security

In this weeks edition well take a sneak peak at the upcoming Service Pack 2 for Windows XP. It’s set for release this summer and will of course include all of the various critical updates and security patches that have been available via Windows Updates, but it will also give us some new and improved functionality in Windows XP, primarily in the areas of security and wireless networking. I’ve been running a pre-release version (Release Candidate 1) for a few weeks and have been very happy with it. Here are some highlights of the improvements.
  • Major overhaul for XP’s built-in firewall. The original was VERY basic but the new one is much more sophisticated and is highly configurable. For starters, it can look at both inbound and outbound network traffic and it will ask your permission before letting certain connections in or out of machine. It’s also turned ON by default now.

  • Includes a new “Security Center” window to give you a “digital dashboard” for many security aspects of your PC. It will show your Windows Update status, firewall status, and third-party anti-virus status. You’ll get a notification in your system tray if it detects a security hole in your system – such as a missing critical update or your anti-virus software has been disabled.

  • Several enhancements to XP’s built-in wireless networking support. The original XP wireless interface was pretty weak but with Service Pack 2 the interface has been much improved and should make it easier to configure and connect to your wireless networks.

  • The first major update to Internet Explorer since version 6.0 was released in 2001. What is the best new feature?? BUILT IN POP-UP BLOCKER!! Sweet! The pop-up blocker is also configurable so you can add sites to your “safe site list” if they have legitimate reasons for having pop-up windows that you want to see.

  • Also improved in Internet Explorer is the way it handles “Add-ons”, meaning all those little ActiveX controls and browser plug-ins that certain websites want to install on your machine that can sometimes cause problems. You can easily pull up a list of these add-ons right in IE and then disable anything that shouldn’t be there.


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