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Microsoft may look again at virus notification

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Customer feedback over the last few days of Microsoft's IT Forum in Barcelona has prompted the vendor to look again at the early notification process for vulnerabilities.

Microsoft releases monthly patch updates on the second Tuesday of the month but gives some customers a heads-up on the previous Thursday.

Stephen Toulouse, security program manager in Microsoft’s Security Response Team said: “Talking to customers over the last few days we’re hearing they’d like us to give them more information ahead of patch Tuesday. Customers are asking for advance notification to be split by service pack or vulnerabilities – so different teams for servers, PCs and laptops will know what they will be doing.” Toulouse said there was always a balance between informing customers and tipping-off would-be attackers.

Talking about the recent problems created by Sony’s rootkit DRM software Toulouse said: “If it happened again I think you’d see a better, quicker response. This was so new it took a couple of days for people to react – it was like an old DOS disc virus.” He said companies like Sony need to remember they have rights to protect their intellectual property but no rights over other people’s computers.

Toulouse said the process of tracking and fixing malware problems now includes a lot more forensic work and co-operation with Interpol and other police authorities to track down virus writers and find evidence against them.

Just as important Microsoft is working with developers to get security built in from the very beginning. Toulouse said: “Developers focus on the cool stuff you can do with new features – we have to get them to think about bad things people can do too."

He said scanning new code and using threat models would all help make life safer. The Xbox360 is currently going through that threat model process.®

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