Compromise sought in Windows bug copyright saga
Microsoft to review format
The moderator of a security mailing list BugTraq has won the backing of its readers in insisting that Microsoft, and another vendor, @Stake, allow him to post advisories on security problems in full.
Microsoft and @Stake changed the format of their advisories so that they provided a brief summary of a particular flaw and directed readers back to the companies' Web sites.
Following the change, Microsoft insisted on enforcing copyright restrictions which meant that security lists could no longer publish its bulletins.
Microsoft said it did this to create a centralised repository for bulletins and links to patch changes.* However the move limits the ability of people to go to one site for the latest security information and discussion of the issues raised by alerts.
Elias Levy, of SecurityFocus.com and moderator of the BugTraq list, said: "Copyright holders must defend their copyright or lose it. That does not mean they can't give a limited distribution license to forums such as BugTraq that are not reselling the information.
"No other vendor has ever used their copyright on advisories to stop others from redistributing them. Microsoft is the first."
Levy added that he is talking to Microsoft about a possible compromise and that the software giant had told him it would review the revised format of the bulletins tomorrow.
After @Stake, a firm of former hackers who used to be known as L0pht Heavy Industries, followed Microsoft's lead in submitting cut-down versions of security notices, Levy asked the 38,000 subscribers of the list for backing in insisting full information on problems is provided. He has now received overwhelming backing for his stance.
"Its not how much information you put in a security bulletin - its how much you leave out," he said.
The issue of MS enforcing copyright on security bug info has provoked a lot of feedback from Register readers - some whimsical (viz. the suggestion that security consultants could copyright the bugs they discover and ask Microsoft to pay royalties on alerts placed on microsoft.com.)
Concerns were raised about Microsoft's use of 'web bugs', or a small graphic item on web pages sites used to log user activity, on the pages where its security advisories are posted. As explained in our articles on the subject this week this practice raises privacy concerns and is, potentially, a security issue in itself. ®
"Customers will come to our 'home page' in unbelievable numbers and find out everything we want them to know."
Bill Gates , Internet Tidal Wave