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The greatest security story never told -- how Microsoft's SDL saved Windows

John E Dunn | March 10, 2014
Microsoft has launched a new website to "tell the untold story" of something it believes changed the history of Windows security and indeed Microsoft itself – the Software Development Lifecycle or plain ‘SDL' for short.

The fruit of the SDL was XP's first Service Pack in 2002, followed up by the even more fundamental security overhaul of SP2 in 2004. By then, XP had been equipped with a software firewall, an almost unthinkable feature for an OS three years eariler.

It's arguable that despite the undoubted gains of the SDL since then, that the firm has yet to fully recover from the trauma of the period. Windows development has seemed less and less certain ever since, following up XP with the flawed Vista and more recent Windows 8 near-debacle. Microsoft still does operating systems but it's not clear that all its users do.

Still, the SDL programme has proved hugely influential even if it's not well known outside tech circles. It is now baked into everything. It has also influenced many other software houses and many have versions of the SDL of their own, many modelled on Microsoft's published framework on how to run secure development.

Whatever mis-steps Microsoft has made in the last decade, security has turned into a bit of a success story right down to the firm's pioneering and hugely important Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) that conducts the forensics necessary to track down the people who write malware in their caves. Both the SDL and DCU are seen as world leaders.

So let's hear of for Redmond, the software giant that launched an operating system years behind the criminals but somehow clawed itself back from disaster. Most other firms would have wilted but somehow Gates's memo rallied the cubicle army.

 

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