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Windows 2000 Achieves Common Criteria Security Certification

Windows 2000 received the Common Criteria security certification on Tuesday after Microsoft invested millions of dollars and three years of effort to gain the certification.

Windows 2000 is the first Microsoft product to achieve the three-year-old Common Criteria security certification. The Common Criteria is a joint security standard accepted by 15 countries, and it supplants such previous national and regional security stamps as the U.S. Trusted Computer Systems Evaluation Criteria C2 and the European Information Technology Security Evaluation Criteria E3/F-C2 evaluations. Windows NT 3.51 and Windows NT 4.0 earned those certifications.

In a conference call on Tuesday, Microsoft officials called the Common Criteria evaluation more "robust" with a wider range of usage scenarios for candidate operating systems than the C2 and E3/F-C2 evaluations.

Officially, Microsoft received the EAL4 level of certification. "We don't think that any commercial product will achieve a level higher than EAL4," said Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief technical officer. "Two higher levels are possible (EAL5 and EAL6) but those are usually homemade, highly classified systems."

Additionally, Microsoft decided to certify its process for finding vulnerabilities in the operating system, patching them and alerting the user base to the vulnerabilities and fixes. Formally, the certification is called ALC FLR 3, for Systematic Flaw Remediation; and the "3" rating represents the most secure level.

"This deals with the real-world situation that products will continue to have flaws," Mundie said. "It is important to have a rigorous process to identify these, and communicate them to users."

Mundie contends Microsoft has raised the bar in the breadth of scenarios and features outside the kernel of the operating system it had tested by independent testing labs for the certification. Submitted for evaluation in addition to the kernel were the Active Directory, Virtual Private Network capabilities, single sign-on capabilities, the Encrypted File System, network management mechanisms and desktop management mechanisms.

The versions of Windows 2000 evaluated for the certification are the same as the versions sold with new machines and at retail outlets, Mundie said. The certification applies to Windows 2000 Professional, Windows 2000 Server and Windows 2000 Advanced Server. All the systems had Service Pack 3 and Hotfix Q326886 applied.

Microsoft plans to submit Windows XP and Windows .NET Server 2003 for Common Criteria certification next.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.