The principal reason given for the tremendous under-the-hood changes to Windows unveiled early this year in Vista was the need to overhaul the security model. Indeed, Vista has proven to be a generally more secure operating system, though some vulnerabilities that apply to ordinary software impact Vista users just as much as any other.
But now, software analysts testing the latest build 3205 of the beta for Windows XP Service Pack 3 are discovering a wealth of genuinely new features – not just patches and security updates (although there are literally over a thousand of those), but services that could substantially improve system security without overhauling the kernel like in Vista.
According to preliminary reports from Neosmart, testers there found evidence that the company is hardening XP’s network security with added features.
One of these features had actually been on Microsoft’s list for some time, and might actually have caused problems for customers had it been omitted: Network Access Protection (NAP), which is due to be managed by the forthcoming Windows Server 2008. This new service disallows network clients from accessing a WS2K8 server without passing a minimum “health screening,” which checks for the presence of updates and service packs (including SP3) and disallows access to failing clients until they upgrade.
When NAP’s inclusion in WS2K8 was first confirmed in late August, a Microsoft spokesperson contacted BetaNews to make sure we reported it wasn’t just for Windows Server and just for Vista. We assumed that meant it would find its way to XP as well, though the spokesperson declined to be pressed further at that time.