Responding In Kind
The Code Red and Nimda worms revealed severe problems in Microsoft's security alerting system. Despite the availability of patches weeks before either worm hit the Internet, few users--particularly enterprises--deployed them.
The problem was twofold: Some users found Microsoft's advisories difficult to understand or didn't receive them at all; others had a difficult time obtaining and verifying the patch. The situation prompted a complete revamping of the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC), the gateway for vulnerability reports and security fixes.
"We always took security seriously and were committed to it, but much more of the company takes it much more seriously in the aftermath of Code Red and Nimda," says Steve Lipner, director of security assurance, who oversees the MSRC. "We know it's important to get it all right and get it out to our customers, and everyone knows what can happen if we don't get it out."
All vulnerability reports filed with MSRC are put through a sophisticated triage and tracking process. The vulnerability report is sent to the appropriate development team, which is responsible for replicating the problem and developing a fix for it. At the same time, an independent engineering team does an evaluation to verify the problem and potential remedies.
Once a patch is created, it goes through a vetting process to ensure it works as intended.
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