Yes, you read the title correctly. There is a new and improved security driven version of Windows being distributed. The National Institute for Standards and Technology, the Defense Information Systems Agency and the Center for Internet Security consulted on this product to help create the most secure configuration of Windows yet. It is not Windows 7 nor is it Windows Vista but you can test it out for free. Just sign up for the Air Force, I believe two years is the minimum, and the computer assigned to you will have a copy of secure Windows XP.
The Air Force used the purchasing power of the U.S. Department of Defense to encourage Microsoft to produce a version of Windows that contains over 600 security settings that are already locked down, a much improved patch system and other tools to help with security. Despite my sarcasm, I am actually all for this project but I wish Microsoft would release it for public use. It would be nice for Microsoft to do this on their own, even something as simple as a security level setting during installation would be a big step forward. If Microsoft does not want to take the initiative, I hope another branch of the military or government does the same thing for Windows 7 and Server 2008.
From the article, John Gillian, former Air Force CIO, had this to say about Microsoft:
“They’re still in the model that they want to give all the features enabled to clients, but I think we’ve reached a point where that model is one that is no longer effective. I’m of the opinion that all products ought to be configured with these locked-down configurations, and if the customer decides they want to undo them, then they can do that. They cannot continue fielding products where the cost that is being borne by the consumer in terms of having to maintain configurations and deal with attacks is so high.”
*Side Note: An interesting Inspector General report regarding the FAA can be found here. [pdf]*