RE: [ISN] Experts: Microsoft security gets an 'F'

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Tue Feb 04 2003 - 23:16:01 PST

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    Forwarded from: Pete Lindstrom <petelindat_private>
    This whole "grading Microsoft" discussion is completely ludicrous. If
    Microsoft gets an 'F,' then who got the A's, B's, C's, and D's? If
    upwards of 100,000 sites were infected with Slammer, does that mean
    that everyone who was infected gets an 'F' too? Or does Microsoft get
    their grade because it was their software? Who gets the 'F' for
    Can we legitimately grade Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing
    initiative, designed to create more secure software, by assessing
    their own internal practices? Can we grade it if there is nothing to
    compare to? How is IBM doing? SAP? Oracle? Siebel? Novell? Computer
    Associates? Sun? HP? PeopleSoft? How about the custom stuff from
    Accenture? EDS? CSC?
    Do we really know the difference between what equals "secure" and what
    equals "luck" in the security space? Is there anyone out there who has
    a foolproof method for determining an appropriate level of security
    that is guaranteed to eliminate risk?
    You can't blame obesity on McDonald's for serving quarter pounders and
    you can't blame insecurity on Microsoft for serving buggy software
    that the whole world decided to buy because of the functionality and
    backward compatibility - both qualities that create complexity and its
    sister, insecurity. And let's not forget that a large number of our
    security problems are due to poor configuration and not buggy software
    (e.g. SQL Spida attacked null passwords).
    There is no doubt that from a security perspective, our existing model
    has been unsuccessful due to its reactive nature and the built-in
    latencies involved. But I talk to companies every day with better
    solutions (check out for
    some ideas).
    It is far too easy to blame Microsoft (give them an 'F') for the
    world's security woes. But you get a completely different perspective
    when you take a look around at all the potential alternatives and
    existing poor security practices in place.
    There, I said it. Please flame me at bill.gatesat_private (just
    Pete Lindstrom, CISSP
    Research Director
    Spire Security, LLC
    P.O. Box 152
    Malvern, PA 19355
    phone: 610-644-9064
    fax: 610-644-8212
    Briefing Requests:
    -----Original Message-----
    From: owner-isnat_private [mailto:owner-isnat_private] On Behalf
    Of InfoSec News
    Sent: Tuesday, February 04, 2003 5:49 AM
    To: isnat_private
    Subject: Re: [ISN] Experts: Microsoft security gets an 'F'
    Forwarded from: Mark Bernard <mbernardat_private>
    Dear Associates,
    Actually this statement may not be far from the truth, however it needs
    to be quantified.
    Typically within the information security program framework we measure
    the success of any program by the reduction in the number of incidents
    of a specific targeted group. The question should be, has the number of
    occurrences of this particular type of incident been reduced overall?
    If the group making the statement has measured the success of the
    Microsoft's initiative against how many systems were actually infected
    they may be using the wrong set of quantifiable criteria, thus their
    statement would be unjustified. A typical program takes three years to
    mature and will need to be tweaked a couple times before it hit 100% of
    the target.
    I should also qualify my statement, I am in no way a Microsoft
    supporter. I truly believe that when a group dominates a market place
    such as Microsoft has, the market in question becomes unhealthy.
    However, that's good for information security professionals. More
    balance is necessary.
    Happy hunting!
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