[ISN] MS rolls out security obscurity bribe program

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Thu Dec 13 2001 - 00:41:49 PST

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    By Thomas C Greene in Washington
    Posted: 13/12/2001 at 08:24 GMT
    MS has rolled out its Faustian bargain for security vendors. Sign up
    with the Microsoft Certified Security Partner Program and saddle up
    with a heap of free software and deep discounts worth many thousands
    of dollars.
    Just look at these giveaways:
    Up to five licenses for Visio 2002 Pro and Project 2002 Pro 
    Up to ten licenses for Office XP Developer Edition 
    Up to twenty licenses for Windows XP Pro 
    One SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Server 
    Ten SQL Server 2000 CALs (Client Access Licenses) 
    One Exchange 2000 Enterprise Server 
    Ten Exchange 2000 Server CALs 
    One SharePoint Portal Server 
    Ten SharePoint Portal Server CALs 
    One Small Business Server 
    Five Small Business Server CALs 
    One Windows 2000 Advanced Server 
    One Project 2002 Server 
    Ten Microsoft Project 2002 CALs 
    But wait, there's more. You also get: 
    Windows XP -- buy one get one free for a maximum of ten. 
    Visual Studio.NET -- buy one get one free for a maximum of five. 
    Visio 2002 Pro -- buy one get one free for a maximum of five. 
    Project 2002 Professional -- buy one get one free for a maximum of five. 
    SharePoint Portal Server -- buy one get one free. 
    SharePoint Portal Server CALs -- buy one get one free for a maximum of ten. 
    On top of that, you'll get "the program plaque, the Identity Kit,
    which contains Microsoft Certified Partner Logo materials and Logo
    Guidelines, and technical, sales and marketing materials."
    And what will this cost, you ask? Why, a mere $1450.00 per year. Quite
    a bargain. All you have to do is keep silent about any Microsoft
    security bugs you might discover, until Redmond authorizes you to
    Oh, and you have to employ at least two exclusive Microsoft Certified
    Professionals, such as MCSEs.
    Go for the gold
    Now if you want even more -- and let's face it, who doesn't -- you can
    apply for the Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Program for Security
    Solutions. This entitles you to "elite brand identification,
    prioritized access to advanced training opportunities, increased
    product licenses and MSDN access, prioritized listing on referrals and
    business engagements, an exclusive Web site, and differentiated
    marketing materials."
    For this you'll have to employ at least four MCSEs and/or MCSDs. And
    of course you'll have to pay MS for their further technical
    enlightenment, as "exam 70-220 is likely to become mandatory for the
    Security Solutions category by July 2002."
    Oath of allegiance
    Of course you'll have to be duly sworn in. Partners "shall follow a
    code of conduct regarding the responsible handling of security
    vulnerabilities," Redmond decrees.
    "This code of conduct is intended to allow a product vendor to address
    any individual vulnerability and issue a patch, workaround or other
    response to the public. Microsoft Gold Certified Security Solutions
    Partners shall take reasonable steps to ensure that they do not
    publicly disclose details that would directly allow an outside party
    to develop or execute an attack exploiting the vulnerability."
    Interestingly, this self-serving 'code' from bugware central may well
    be in conflict with the ISC2 (International Information Systems
    Security Certifications Consortium), a highly-respected trade
    organization which administers the CISSP (Certified Information
    Systems Security Professional) program.
    Their code of ethics, incredibly, requires practitioners to "tell the
    truth." It also requires one to "discourage unsafe practices," such as
    security through obscurity, for example.
    "There is a requirement to disclose vulnerabilities to vulnerable
    parties... Ethically, the first duty is always to the vulnerable
    party," Sierra Systems senior security consultant Jon Espenschied
    (CISSP) told us.
    "I find it disturbing that MS' Code of Conduct would require someone
    to report a software vulnerability to MS before notifying a client of,
    for example, a gaping security hole in an IIS-based healthcare
    application that exposes patient information in violation of federal
    HIPAA privacy rules."
    "While the ISC2 Code of Ethics rightly prohibits scare mongering, it
    does not say 'protect a vendor's reputation at the expense of clients'
    property and livelihood,'" Espenschied adds.
    The company has already demonstrated its inclination to sacrifice the
    public's security and privacy to sidestep negative PR, as it did when
    it attempted, unsuccessfully, to sweep under the carpet an exploitable
    hole in Passport which would have left millions of users' personal
    details and credit card data vulnerable.
    In this case the party at risk was the general public, precisely the
    group MS would leave in the dark and unable to take steps to protect
    themselves. Hence the glittering giveaway to tempt security vendors'
    loyalties away from the public and towards the company's interests.
    Tantalizing stuff, we must allow. Only one question remains: do you
    really need your soul?
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