Security researchers with Authentium have found a way to circumvent the Patchguard security technology that Microsoft has built into the 64-bit version of its forthcoming Windows Vista operating system.
Over the past months the Patchguard technology has been subject of a fierce debate between security vendors and Microsoft because it prevents some anti-virus software from functioning.
Facing potential penalties from antitrust authorities in Korea and the EU, Microsoft earlier this month promised to provide application programming interfaces (APIs) that would allow third party security products to function properly in Windows Vista. It may take years however before these APIs will be published and fully functioning.
Authentium's technology allows an application to effectively disable Patchguard. The company decided to develop the tool because it required kernel access for its VirtualATM product that is scheduled for release in December.
In a blog posting the company argued that providing kernel access to third party websites will enable future security innovations.
"This is about enabling innovative new technologies and countering new emerging threats and criminal strategies. If new security innovations are not encouraged, consumers will lose out."
"If we (the good guys) can gain access to the Vista kernel, so can sophisticated, well-financed hackers. These days, most hackers are exactly that – sophisticated and well-financed. We implore Microsoft not to 'go it alone' in security."
Microsoft however said that it will not tolerate outside developers circumventing its technology features and plans to issue a patch to block Authentium's technique.
"If a vulnerability is discovered in Kernel Patch Protection, Microsoft will issue a security update as part of the standard Microsoft Security Response Center process," the company said in an emailed statement.
"Microsoft strongly recommends that software vendors do not attempt to bypass Kernel Patch Protection. This has the potential of destabilising and crashing customer systems, particularly in cases where Kernel Patch Protection is enhanced and updates are delivered to customers."
Microsoft stressed that it will provide APIs to offer functionality similar to that which developers had in other Windows versions.
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