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Microsoft refreshes secure developer software tools

Attack Surface Analyzer makes its debut

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Microsoft has released a new software tool to help developers write secure applications by highlighting the system changes created when their wares are installed on Windows machines.

The Attack Surface Analyzer, released on Tuesday, is a free verification tool that analyzes the changes in system state, runtime parameters and securable objects in the Windows operating system. The tool, which was released as part of Microsoft's Secure Development Lifecycle, takes snapshots of a system and compares the results before and after an app is installed. It then identifies resulting classes of security weaknesses.

“The tool also gives an overview of the changes to the system Microsoft considers important to the security of the platform and highlights these in the attack surface report,” David Ladd, Microsoft's principal security program manager, blogged. Among the checks performed are analysis of changed or newly added files, registry keys, services, ActiveX controls, listening ports, and access control lists. It's available for free, for now as a beta so that Microsoft can collect feedback from users.

Attack Surface Analyzer was one of several security tools Microsoft released at this week's Black Hat Security Conference in Washington, DC. Redmond also published the next version of its SDL Threat Modeling Tool that's used to assess whether applications under development meet security and privacy guidelines. It now works with Microsoft Visio 2010. More details are here.

The software company also released version 1.2 of the SDL Binscope Binary Analyzer, a verification tool that analyzes binaries on a project-wide level to insure they comply with SDL requirements.

The new offerings add to a growing roster of free security apps Microsoft makes available for free to developers. Other tools include version 2 of EMET, short for Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit. It is used to add security measures such a Data Execution Prevention and Address Space Layout Randomization to older applications and operating systems, such as Internet Explorer 6 and Windows XP. Other apps include the Microsoft Solutions Framework, !exploitable Crash Analyzer, and the Microsoft MiniFuzz fuzzer tool.

Tuesday's additions come as vulnerability tracking service Secunia reported that failure to apply third-party patches – as opposed to updates from Microsoft – is "almost exclusively" responsible for the growing exposure of Windows machines to security threats. ®

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