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Microsoft taught security by open-source community

Microsoft admitted it has learned about software security from the open source community, but now the company believes they can learn from it

Microsoft's global director of product security, George Stathakopoulos, has told ZDNet Australia that the software giant has learned security lessons from the wider software community.

When asked if the company had received had taken a leaf out of the open-source book, his response came with a chuckle.

"Let me answer [like] this -- buffer overruns, we know how to fix them now," Stathakopoulos said.

"I think in the industry in general there are lessons to be learned from us, and from anybody who's dealing with security," he added.

The security chief drew parallels between a recent code-audit undertaken by the Windows 2003 team and practices that have been undertaken in the Unix community.

"The Unix community took time and reviewed the code and had similar processes," he said.

Whilst Stathakopoulos says Microsoft can learn from the wider community, there are some out there who are acting irresponsibly in the security space.

"I'm not too sure I'm comfortable with someone taking exploit code and posting it on the Web... if nothing else they put people at risk," he said.

However, Stathakopoulos says white-hat hackers that responsibly disclose security vulnerabilities to vendors, giving them time to produce a fix, should be commended.

"I do believe there's a set of people out there... white-hats... who do a genuine job researching and finding security bugs," he said. "I do believe that there's an appropriate way to approach a vendor... [and] the vendor has a responsibility once something like that comes to their attention... Appropriate credits should be given to the person who did all the hard work to find the bug".

When asked about denial of service glitches in software such as Internet Explorer, which have been a hot topic in security forums over the last couple of weeks, Stathakopoulos classed the problems as "not a super-high security thing". He says glitches like that are annoying and should be addressed in service packs, rather than being individually patched.

As for patches themselves, Windows 2003 already has a patching service that administrators can use to roll-out upgrades on their network without having to point every workstation at the "Windowsupdate" site, hence saving bandwidth. But the security chief believes Microsoft can do better when it comes to vulnerabilities.

"The best way to pro-actively fix the patching issue is not having the bugs in the first place," he said.


For all security-related news, including updates on the latest viruses, hacking exploits and patches, check out ZDNet UK's Security News Section.

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