To fix software flaws, Microsoft invites attack

Monday, 29 September 2003, 9:13 AM EST

Microsoft's Security Response Center is the computing equivalent of a hospital emergency ward. When a problem comes in the door the center's director, Kevin Kean, and his staff must swiftly make an assessment: Is the security weakness detected in a Microsoft software product only minor? Or is it possibly so serious that, if exploited by a vandal's malicious code (as happened last month with the Blaster worm) it might crash computers and networks around the world?

If the threat appears grave, the problem goes immediately into the center's emergency operating room, where it is attended to by a team of Microsoft engineers, working nearly round-the-clock to analyze the flawed code, anticipate paths of attack, devise a software patch to fix the defect and alert millions of customers of the problem and the patch.

"It's triage and emergency response — so it's a lot like an E.R. ward in that sense," Mr. Kean observed last week.

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