Microsoft Corp., the world's biggest software maker, said Thursday that it would update its Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 programs to make them more resistant to attacks by hackers, after two viruses in August sparked criticism of the firm's security.
The new features, which will be available in 2004, will help fight off viruses even if patches for a particular strain haven't been developed yet, the Redmond, Wash.-based firm said. Chief Executive Steve Ballmer outlined the changes at a Microsoft conference in New Orleans.
The Blaster and SoBig worms crashed computers and snarled corporate networks for several days in August.
Years of such attacks and the time required to install multiple security patches have angered Microsoft customers. Some clients have said they were considering switching to the Linux operating system.
Ballmer said the current security crisis was one of Microsoft's "defining moments" akin to the "call of the Internet in 1995" and the U.S. antitrust suit against Microsoft. Ballmer also contended that customers leaving Windows for other operating systems were making a mistake.
"A lot of you will hear the argument that says the best thing I can do for security is just walk away from Microsoft, the other systems are more secure, a mono culture is bad for security," he said. "All of that is hogwash."
The company also will hold monthly security Webcasts for customers starting in November, extend security update support for older versions of Windows for servers and business computers, and upgrade an automatic download patch service for business to include more Microsoft products.
Shares of Microsoft rose 12 cents to $28.94 on Nasdaq.