BeyondTrust

Security in Context: The BeyondTrust Blog

Welcome to Security in Context

Bringing you news and commentary on solutions and strategies for protecting critical IT infrastructure in the context of your business.

Microsoft Enters the Security Research Arena

Posted April 20, 2011    Marc Maiffret

This week Microsoft announced important updates to policies around discovering and disclosing third-party software application vulnerabilities. They’ve officially expanded their Coordinated Vulnerability Disclosure (CVD) policy (launched last summer as a replacement/renaming of their “responsible disclosure” policy) and have made public an internal employee policy (launched in November 2010), which requires in-house researchers to adhere to CVD guidelines, and report vulnerabilities in third-party products to the Microsoft Vulnerability Research (MSVR) program. MSVR then reports the vulnerability privately to the vendor and coordinates with the vendor on its investigation progress . In a related gesture, they released inaugural MSVR Advisories on vulnerabilities discovered by Microsoft employees in Chrome and Opera (fixed by the vendors in the latter part of 2010).
For more background, here’s some of what Microsoft has said about their updated vulnerability research policies:

– Coordinated Vulnerability Disclosure Reloaded
– Microsoft Vulnerability Research

My first comment is that Microsoft should without a doubt be commended for taking such an active role in protecting their customers not just from security weaknesses in their own technologies but in third-party software also. Microsoft is trying to fill a void that has been created in the vulnerability research space — the gap between researchers discovering vulnerabilities and actually reporting them back to the software vendors.

While Microsoft is looking to fill this void by doing vulnerability research themselves they, and other technology companies, should look to solve the two larger problems of why vulnerability researchers have in large part abandoned working with vendors.

1. Money on the table: Vulnerability research is not easy work and researchers now have an outlet to be compensated for their work by selling zero-day vulnerabilities, both to good and bad intentioned buyers.

2. Mistrust of vendor accountability: Vulnerability researchers who are less motivated by money are still extremely dissatisfied with the time it takes for vendors to fix vulnerabilities reported to them. Also, there’s a genuine sense of resentment among researches because of games sometimes played by vendors. Microsoft, and other technology companies, still fail to set a timeline during which researchers need to wait for Microsoft to create a patch, but after which a researcher should be able to publish details to help the community without being vilified by Microsoft or other technology companies.

Is Microsoft doing vulnerability research going to help their customers? Most definitely. But not as much as they would help customers by finding a way to compensate researchers and stick to a measurable time period to produce a patch. There is no comparison to the exponential benefit Microsoft would have on product security by bridging the gap with the research community. The community will always be stronger than any in-house Microsoft efforts at vulnerability research and that right now equates to more zero-day being found in the wild.

Leave a Reply

Additional articles

Dark Reading

2014: The Year of Privilege Vulnerabilities

Posted December 18, 2014    Chris Burd

Of the 30 critical-rated Microsoft Security Bulletins this year, 24 involved vulnerabilities where the age-old best practice of “least privilege” could limit the impact of malware and raise the bar of difficulty for attackers.

Tags:
, , , , ,
dave-shackleford-headshot

Looking back on information security in 2014

Posted December 16, 2014    Dave Shackleford

Dave Shackleford is a SANS Instructor and founder of Voodoo Security. Join Dave for a closer look at the year in security, and learn what you can do to prepare for 2015, with this upcoming webinar. 2014 has been one heck of an insane year for information security professionals. To start with, we’ve been forced…

Tags:
, ,
patch-tuesday

December 2014 Patch Tuesday

Posted December 9, 2014    BeyondTrust Research Team

This month marks the final Patch Tuesday of 2014. Most of what is being patched this month includes Internet Explorer, Exchange, Office, etc… and continues a trend of the greatest hits collection of commonly attacked Microsoft software. Probably the one thing that broke the mold this month is that for once there is not some…

Tags:
,