Service Pack 2, Windows XP more secure

The first service pack of 130 MB (compressed) allowed Microsoft to correct 324 errors related to the operating system. With this Service Pack 2 (Build 2082), efforts were certainly focused on correcting known problems, but above all on improving network security, protection against exceeding memory and the e-mail against attachments, the security of the operating system. Not to mention greater security to surf the web. The number of processes and corresponding descriptors enough to see that SP2 consumes far more resources. The firewall and security center that checks all relevant security settings, both enabled by default, also require more memory.

Improved network protection with Windows Firewall

In the update of Windows XP, the Windows Firewall (previously firewall internet connection) is now enabled by default and more configurable. In addition, a new feature protects the PC from starting. The network driver is loaded once the firewall enabled. Even when the computer is off, it now provides effective protection by first making the extinction of the network driver.

The Windows Firewall is now always active, and this for all network connections. If the user can configure the firewall, it is also possible for an administrator to set the parameters at the network level through the Profile Editor. In this case, the user loses the ability to configure itself.

In terms of configuration the user is not forced to look at length the functions of firewall, as was the case until now, but finds the icon displays as soon as the network connection. All security settings can also be made and displayed in the new Security Center screen.

The firewall configuration provides three options: on, activated with exceptions list and disabled. Exceptions are generally applications like file sharing software, messaging programs, and individual ports.

These exceptions can be configured locally or globally. The local activation means that the ports have a corresponding access to the respective applications and within the same network. The global option for its expanding application access from the outside (file sharing, messaging). Furthermore, if a program wants to establish an internet connection soon after the start, Microsoft has built a mechanism whereby request permission from the user.

The security of the network connection is also enhanced by improved protection of the calling service remote procedure (RPC) and DCOM (Distributed Component Object Model). In addition, some services (alerting and messaging services) that are not absolutely essential but which carry risks in terms of security are disabled.

Protection against buffer overflow

Now protection against buffer overflow (buffer overflow) is made possible through the use of processors with NX (AMD Athlon 64, AMD Opteron, Intel Itanium). NX technology for “No Execute” ensures that parts of the memory are not executable.

Be aware that users whose PC has an AMD Athlon 64 processor enjoy better protection than those with equivalent systems with an Intel processor. SP2 enables the function present in the AMD processor that prevents buffer overflow when executing dangerous code. Intel offers this option only from its high Itanium processor range. It should not however be a long time before Intel also integrates this important security feature in its other processors.

The memory of PCs with P4 and other processors that do not offer this possibility is also protected, thanks to the adaptation of all executable programs on the operating system. This process (sandbox layout, or “sandbox”) is however not as effective as the hardware implementation in processors.

Protecting email against dangerous attachments

Many worms, viruses and Trojans manage to penetrate the computer as attachments in email messages. Outlook Express now knows how much that his professional variant Outlook control long ago.

Blocking images and other HTML content like that of potentially dangerous attachments are now part of Outlook Express capabilities.

A more secure browsing

Internet Explorer finally has an effective blocking system of pop-up windows. This feature has long been exploited by many users, for example through the installation of a navigation companion module, as Crazy Browser available since 2002. While Microsoft will be able to integrate in 2004.

This locking system does not make it safer browser. This falls in particular control on installed modules companions. In addition, the new Internet Explorer prohibits the execution of dangerous HTML code on the local PC. However, if it detects code deemed unsafe, it does not mean that there is danger. The user can ignore the alert and allow Explorer to run the code. During our test, Internet Explorer has warned us against the execution of certain pages of iBench internet performance test, as it does not contain harmful code. If this error is still present in the final version of SP2, many corporate intranet applications will also be affected by this problem. This alert certainly scare many users who then call the IT support, which probably is not the goal.

Best update service

Now it is possible to remove some components installed via Windows Update automatic update service when problems occur after installation. Administrators of large networks should first test this feature on a computer. If it proves perfectly satisfactory, it is possible to activate all the other network computers.

Windows XP therefore offers the best protection a Windows operating system ever offered. With a firewall installed as standard on Service Pack 2 and an anti-virus program, not supplied with Windows, most pirate attacks can be countered effectively. However, even these measures will not provide 100% protection against opening attachments that are unknown senders.

Windows XP performance and memory requirements depending on the service pack installed

XP Installation

Windows XP Sp1 DX9b

Windows XP Sp1

(Updated 11.3)

Windows XP SP2 (2082)

Files / directories

9780/710

10104/738

11596/830

Square

1212.9 MB

1286.8 MB

1856.7 MB

descriptors

3178

3277

4512

threads

252

242

302

Process

15

15

19

Memory

522.99 MB

522.99 MB

522.99 MB

Available

419.4 MB

415.7 MB

391.5 MB

Cache system

62.9 MB

83.8 MB

130.3 MB

core memory

12.6 MB

12.6 MB

16.8 MB

paged

7.7 MB

7.8 MB

11.4 MB

nonpaged

4.9 MB

4.9 MB

5.3MB

Starting Windows XP

20 seconds

19 seconds

25 seconds

Comanche4

70.6 frames / s

70.9 frames / s

70.0 frames / s

Business Diskwinmark

10.3 MB / s

9.9 MB / s

9.4 MB / s

CPU load

7.2%

7.6%

7.6%

highend Diskwinmark

24.9 MB / s

25.0 MB / s

26.1 MB / s

CPU load

2.96%

3.2%

3.4%

Business Winstone 2004

25.9 Points

25.7 Points

23.9 Points

Business Winstone 2004

(processor)

55.1%

54.9%

53.7%