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MS blames messenger for IE security hole

Our bugs can't hurt you if you don't know they're there

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The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

A month ago there was a little exploit, discovered by Online Solutions, which could allow an attacker to obtain or alter IE 5.5 and 6.0 cookie data with a malicious URL. It didn't seem a terribly big deal at the time.

It became a big deal when Microsoft decided to throw a hissy fit about the fact that Online Solutions broke the news. Mind you, they didn't publish the details; they merely stated that the flaw existed before MS was ready to have this embarrassing tidbit disclosed to the wide world of Windows aficionados.

The history is interesting. Online Solutions notified MS of the bug on 1 November, and the company promised to get right on it. After a week without hearing a word, Online Solutions broke the news, and Microsoft posted a bulletin later that day in which it accused Online Solutions of being "irresponsible", and in which it whined about not having been given time to patch its bugware.

It even included a link to MS Security Manager Scott Culp's famous 'information anarchy' essay, just in case anyone failed to feel sufficiently guilt-ridden for speaking the truth.

Now the patch has finally been issued (get it here); and MS has backed down from its charge of irresponsibility.

Too little too late, perhaps. We note that in this case MS objected to the mere mention of the exploit. The subsequent retraction of bile we chalk up to mere PR concerns. We also note that the company is aggressively pursuing disclosure regulations which would help it sweep similar bugs under the carpet until it's good and ready to go public with them.

The theory is that their bugs can't hurt you if you don't know they're there.

Happy surfing. ®

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