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Microsoft sets Apple straight on security

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Microsoft giving advice to Apple on software security? What next, a lecture on timely shipping of product?

As crazy as it sounds, a member of Microsoft's security team has blasted Apple for failing to coordinate its security efforts and to issue proper security advice.

Stephen Toulouse, communications manager for Microsoft's security response team, has blogged that Apple needs a "security czar" to batten down the hatches against an growing number of attacks on the company's OS X.

By contrast, he points to Microsoft as a prime example of how to respond to threats, providing well-documented communications and prescriptive "how-to" guidance with alerts that are delivered through email, RSS and deployment tools.

Toulouse was responding to Apple's recent update to a security fix that was designed to solve problems in installing an earlier patch. Apple's Security Update 2006-002 had caused problems with networking and with the Safari browser icon.

He criticized Apple's security mailing list for failing to "cover when there are new versions available when a bug is introduced by the update" and for lacking RSS.

Also worrying for Toulouse was a recent BusinessWeek article where Apple's vice president of software technology Bud Tribble apparently rejected the need to appoint a security chief: "When we think about security and how we design software, the basic approach is to make it as secure as possible," Tribble said.

That, according to Toulouse, was "a little like saying the White House shouldn't have a Department of Home land Security because, DUH, everyone in the government cares about security!"

He advised Apple to become more pro-active, warning that today's attacks are like the most prevalent form of attack on Windows - attacks that require the user to take action first.

"We've learned the lesson of getting out there fast and providing clear prescriptive guidance," he said. "[Apple] will have to seek outside expertise in the form of a head of security communications in the next 12 months. Apple needs a person steeped in security issues."

Toulouse seems to overlook the, ah-em, timely release of alerts from Microsoft like this. But he has started a verbal war that cannot end well for Microsoft. ®

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