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[ISN] MS rolls out security obscurity bribe program
From: InfoSec News (isnc4i.org)
Date: Thu Dec 13 2001 - 02:41:49 CST
By Thomas C Greene in Washington
Posted: 13/12/2001 at 08:24 GMT
MS has rolled out its Faustian bargain for security vendors. Sign up
with the Microsoft Certified Security Partner Program and saddle up
with a heap of free software and deep discounts worth many thousands
Just look at these giveaways:
Up to five licenses for Visio 2002 Pro and Project 2002 Pro
Up to ten licenses for Office XP Developer Edition
Up to twenty licenses for Windows XP Pro
One SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Server
Ten SQL Server 2000 CALs (Client Access Licenses)
One Exchange 2000 Enterprise Server
Ten Exchange 2000 Server CALs
One SharePoint Portal Server
Ten SharePoint Portal Server CALs
One Small Business Server
Five Small Business Server CALs
One Windows 2000 Advanced Server
One Project 2002 Server
Ten Microsoft Project 2002 CALs
But wait, there's more. You also get:
Windows XP -- buy one get one free for a maximum of ten.
Visual Studio.NET -- buy one get one free for a maximum of five.
Visio 2002 Pro -- buy one get one free for a maximum of five.
Project 2002 Professional -- buy one get one free for a maximum of five.
SharePoint Portal Server -- buy one get one free.
SharePoint Portal Server CALs -- buy one get one free for a maximum of ten.
On top of that, you'll get "the program plaque, the Identity Kit,
which contains Microsoft Certified Partner Logo materials and Logo
Guidelines, and technical, sales and marketing materials."
And what will this cost, you ask? Why, a mere $1450.00 per year. Quite
a bargain. All you have to do is keep silent about any Microsoft
security bugs you might discover, until Redmond authorizes you to
Oh, and you have to employ at least two exclusive Microsoft Certified
Professionals, such as MCSEs.
Go for the gold
Now if you want even more -- and let's face it, who doesn't -- you can
apply for the Microsoft Gold Certified Partner Program for Security
Solutions. This entitles you to "elite brand identification,
prioritized access to advanced training opportunities, increased
product licenses and MSDN access, prioritized listing on referrals and
business engagements, an exclusive Web site, and differentiated
For this you'll have to employ at least four MCSEs and/or MCSDs. And
of course you'll have to pay MS for their further technical
enlightenment, as "exam 70-220 is likely to become mandatory for the
Security Solutions category by July 2002."
Oath of allegiance
Of course you'll have to be duly sworn in. Partners "shall follow a
code of conduct regarding the responsible handling of security
vulnerabilities," Redmond decrees.
"This code of conduct is intended to allow a product vendor to address
any individual vulnerability and issue a patch, workaround or other
response to the public. Microsoft Gold Certified Security Solutions
Partners shall take reasonable steps to ensure that they do not
publicly disclose details that would directly allow an outside party
to develop or execute an attack exploiting the vulnerability."
Interestingly, this self-serving 'code' from bugware central may well
be in conflict with the ISC2 (International Information Systems
Security Certifications Consortium), a highly-respected trade
organization which administers the CISSP (Certified Information
Systems Security Professional) program.
Their code of ethics, incredibly, requires practitioners to "tell the
truth." It also requires one to "discourage unsafe practices," such as
security through obscurity, for example.
"There is a requirement to disclose vulnerabilities to vulnerable
parties... Ethically, the first duty is always to the vulnerable
party," Sierra Systems senior security consultant Jon Espenschied
(CISSP) told us.
"I find it disturbing that MS' Code of Conduct would require someone
to report a software vulnerability to MS before notifying a client of,
for example, a gaping security hole in an IIS-based healthcare
application that exposes patient information in violation of federal
HIPAA privacy rules."
"While the ISC2 Code of Ethics rightly prohibits scare mongering, it
does not say 'protect a vendor's reputation at the expense of clients'
property and livelihood,'" Espenschied adds.
The company has already demonstrated its inclination to sacrifice the
public's security and privacy to sidestep negative PR, as it did when
it attempted, unsuccessfully, to sweep under the carpet an exploitable
hole in Passport which would have left millions of users' personal
details and credit card data vulnerable.
In this case the party at risk was the general public, precisely the
group MS would leave in the dark and unable to take steps to protect
themselves. Hence the glittering giveaway to tempt security vendors'
loyalties away from the public and towards the company's interests.
Tantalizing stuff, we must allow. Only one question remains: do you
really need your soul?
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