Neohapsis is currently accepting applications for employment. For more information, please visit our website www.neohapsis.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
[ISN] Closed source is more secure -- MS
From: InfoSec News (isnC4I.ORG)
Date: Sat Apr 14 2001 - 15:26:53 CDT
By: Kevin Poulsen
Posted: 13/04/2001 at 08:27 GMT
The head of Microsoft's security response team argued here Thursday
that closed source software is more secure than open source projects,
in part because nobody's reviewing open source code for security
"Review is boring and time consuming, and it's hard," said Steve
Lipner, manager of Microsoft's security response center. "Simply
putting the source code out there and telling folks 'here it is'
doesn't provide any assurance or degree of likelihood that the review
The comments, delivered at the 2001 RSA Conference, were a challenge
to one of the tenets of open source, that 'with many eyes, all bugs
"The vendor eyes in a security review tend to be dedicated, trained,
full time and paid," Lipner said.
Lipner argued that network administrators are better off spending
their time reading log files and installing patches than poring over
source code looking for security holes, and the system of 'peer
review' that works well for vetting encryption algorithms, doesn't
work to evaluate large pieces of software for flaws.
"An encryption algorithm is relatively simple, compared to a 40
million line operating system," Lipner argued. "And the discovery of
an individual software flaw doesn't pay off much... It doesn't win
anyone fame and fortune... People fix the flaw and move on."
Lipner, who oversees Microsoft's response to newly-reported security
holes in its products, took the opportunity to point out "the repeated
and recurring vulnerabilities in the Unix utilities BIND, WU-FTP, and
so on. The repeated theme is people use this stuff, but they don't
spend time security reviewing."
Making source code public also increases the risk that attackers will
find a crucial security hole that reviewers missed, said Lipner. "That
argument sounds like an argument for 'security through obscurity,' and
I apologize. The facts are there."
Lipner slammed the open source development process, suggesting that
the often-voluntary nature of creating works like the Linux operating
system make it less disciplined, and less secure. "The open source
model tends to emphasize design and development. Testing is boring and
By contrast, Microsoft does extensive testing on every product, and on
every patch, said Lipner. "People ask us why our security patches take
so long. One of the reasons they take so long is because we test
Lipner closed by warning that the nature of open source development
may lend itself to abuse by malicious coders, who could devilishly
clever 'trapdoors' in the code that escapes detection, hidden in plain
Under polite questioning from the audience, Lipner acknowledged that
some closed-source commercial products have been found to have
Other conferees expressed skepticism that closed source software
receives more thorough security reviews than open source code.
"Looking at products that come from commercial vendors, it seems the
customer has very little guarantee that the software has been
reviewed," said one conferee. "Industry has not acquitted itself
ISN is hosted by SecurityFocus.com
To unsubscribe email LISTSERVSecurityFocus.com with a message body of