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In what amounts to a change in strategy about ending support for Windows NT, Microsoft
has agreed to an unspecified extension of Windows NT 4.0
software security and support for customers in the financial industry.
In a deal with BITS, a consortium of financial institutions that collectively holds more than half of the nation's financial assets, Microsoft has agreed on parameters for what is being described as "specialized support" for Windows NT 4.0. Under terms of the pact, Redmond will continue to provide NT 4.0 security updates for an extended period while U.S. banks work to migrate to new versions of the Windows operating system.
This comes one year after Microsoft announced that it would no longer offer help-desk support or security patches for new bugs found in the NT 4.0 Workstation operation system. The move was part of a strategic plan to nudge customers into upgrading to the Windows 2000 server suite.
However, the withdrawal of NT 4.0 security support did not sit well with customers in the financial sector, and, after lobbying from groups like BITS, Microsoft decided to go it slow and help with migration issues.
As part of the latest pact, Microsoft will also offer localized expertise and assistance to customers when installing security updates and implementing system changes. The two sides have also agreed to jointly develop a software security plan geared specifically for the financial industry.
Officials from Microsoft's security unit will work with BITS members to implement the plan, which will center around OS patch management and security concerns.
BITS chairman Thomas Renyi hailed the deal as a "significant step in ensuring the safety and soundness of our customers' critical infrastructures and ultimately helping protect a key segment of the national economy."
Renyi, who is CEO of the Bank of New York Company Inc., said BITS was working closely with several key software vendors to ensure that products offered to its members were reliable and secure.