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Microsoft is crawling toward trustworthy code – experts

Ten years to go

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A panel of security experts have faith in Microsoft's ability to produce trusted code. The problem is that they think it will take Redmond a decade to learn how to do it.

Famed phreaker Kevin Mitnick headlined a Churchill Club event here on Monday night, joining fellow security gurus from Oracle, ZoneLabs and Black Hat. This uncharacteristically subdued Churchill discussion perked up when the panel turned its attention to Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing mission.

Oracle's Chief Security Officer Mary Ann Davidson drew attention to Microsoft's double standard with its policy of source code disclosure.

"During the antitrust hearnings, Jim Allchin (VP of Platforms at Microsoft) said that opening up their interfaces would create a national security issue," Davidson said.

"So they won't open to the competition and yet they want to give their code to China and Russia. Help me out here. How is opening up your APIs to competitors a national security threat, but it's not if you are giving your code to non-US nations."

This assault on Microsoft resonated with the audience, and came as a bit of shock, following her earlier sympathy for Redmond's virus and worm woes.

Davidson said she felt great pains for her customers who also have Microsoft software and for the company itself, which was mortified by the crippling Slammer worm attack.

She must have wept like a crocodile.

Yes, Oracle's security is a competitive advantage, but it sure would make the world a better place if Microsoft could pull its weight:-

"It's in everybody's best interest if they succeed," she said.

But Gregor Freund, CEO & co-founder of Zone Labs, isn't holding out much hope for a quick fix in Microsoft products.

"I wish they would delineate exactly what Trustworthy computing means," Freund said. "They are starting to do it and in ten years or so the applications will be safe. If they would work with the security industry closely it would be helpful."

Star attraction Kevin Mitnick was muted. He spent most of his time hawking his company's skills in protecting against social engineering.

That said, here's to ten more years of getting there.®

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