Gates says data security remains major technology challenge

Keeping information secure in this age of laptop-lugging workers is the tech industry's most formidable challenge, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, quoted by an Associated Press report, said.

The Associated Press report, quoting Gates who was Speaking to an annual gathering of 15,000 computer security experts in San Francisco, said Gates invoked the metaphor of a medieval castle to explain the problem.

Programmers build bigger moats and thicker fortress walls, but they don't bother to protect the corporate crown jewels when members of their fiefdom exit the castle and leave the drawbridge open, Gates said.

'We used to think of the data center as a glass house that was very isolated,' Gates said. 'But if we look (at) what actually goes on, consultants come into your company, employees who are not onsite need full access, we cannot think of that glass house as the way to define what can connect to what. We need a far more powerful paradigm.'

Gates repeated Microsoft's claim that Windows Vista, which launched last month, was the most secure operating system in the company's history.
But he acknowledged that all software has 'weak links,' particularly when thieves steal servers with confidential information, or when employees use simple, obvious passwords on multiple accounts, the report said.

Instead of passwords, Gates favors 'public key certificates,' combinations of digital signatures and other identifying information such as a person's name, address, social security number and other data. He calls it the 'identity metasystem,' the report said.