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RE: Microsoft Coding / National Security Risk
From: "joe" <mvp () joeware net>
Date: Wed, 24 Mar 2004 08:06:38 -0500

I am definitely not happy with the length of time it took to release the ASN
fix (It didn't take 9 months to produce, it took 9 months to release. I
think it was something like 2-3 months for the fix to be created and then
several more months, I would assume for comprehensive testing (due to all of
the possible impact points), for the release. Two-three months may also seem
a bit long but I don't personally know the complexity of the issue they were
correcting and neither do you. They weren't correcting a single
self-contained program like W3SVC or Apache or netdom, they were correcting
functionality in a core component used widely across the OS. 

If the next slammer virus came through and started formatting hard drives, I
would say the same thing I did when the last one came through and that would
be "How come you weren't patched with a patch that had been out that long?".
It doesn't matter how fast MS produces patches if admins and users aren't
getting them applied. The issue isn't simply one of technology, it is also
one of process. A vast number of people don't want automatic updates of
their systems either because they don't trust the source or simply don't'
want their machines updating automatically but DON'T go back to do it in a
conrolled fashion. They wait until someone says they need to go do it. I
don't let MS update my PC automatically but I do make it a point to go back
and check every couple of days to see if something has been released and I
watch several notification streams as well. Most people will not do this so
they either need to go with some form of automatic updates or unplug.

MS sent many many people through the code. People outside are going through
the code. Again this isn't one program that one person could go through and
have a strong handle of. I don't think 10 more people could add much if any
value. Not sure 100 outside people could. If this were the case we wouldn't
be finding old holes in other open source now, we would only be finding
stuff in the newly released code. I would however like to think that MS is
working on better automated scans of the code to find holes, that would be
more value than trying to find 10 excellent security programmers. I am
someone who has access to the current source and have walked through large
sections of it, it isn't like the holes jump out and say "HI, here I am".
Also the code I have had a chance to walk through in the last 8 months is
pretty decent, I definitely am not going, oh my god oh my god. It seems more
rigorous than the code I have walked through say for Samba however that is
an objective opinion and am not going to enumerate items I think one does
better than the other. 

BTW, how many zero day exploit based worms/viruses have been beating up on
MS in the last year or two... Not being flip here.


  joe


 

-----Original Message-----
From: full-disclosure-admin () lists netsys com
[mailto:full-disclosure-admin () lists netsys com] On Behalf Of Richard Hatch
Sent: Wednesday, March 24, 2004 5:10 AM
To: full-disclosure () lists netsys com
Subject: [Full-disclosure] Microsoft Coding / National Security Risk

Hi all,

Microsoft have stated that to make the source code for Windows publically
available would be a risk to National Security.
Microsoft also took 9 months to produce a fix for the ASN.1 problem.

As much as some people may regret it, Western civilisation runs on Microsoft
software.  Imagine the panic that would ensue if the next slammer worm
infected 10 machines then formatted hard drives, or scrambled random parts
of random files.
This is not news, some old DOS viruses set file lengths to zero, rather than
deleting files that could be recovered.

So my idea is this:
Take a team of really really good C/C++ coders with excellent security
vulnerability knowledge and have them go through the source code for windows
(starting with the core functionality and internet facing functionality
maybe).  Find these bugs (including methodical black-box testing against the
binaries) and fix them.

These people would be fully supported by Microsoft (including full access to
all technical documentation, Microsoft technical advisors, etc), and backed
by the NSA or other Government agency.  Microsoft could impose whatever
NDA's they want, but they should fund the bug hunt.
Not only can they afford it, they created the problem code.  Fresh insight
into how Windows functions is required to identify the less obvious
vulnerabilities.

Microsoft Windows is not just another piece of software, it has become a
fundamental part of businesses and governments.

Oh, can anyone suggest a reason why disclosing the source to Windows would
be a National Security risk, yet Microsoft is happy to provide the same
source code to ceratin third-parties (I assume this means any company that
has enough cash and signs the right paperwork).

Folks, simply reacting to 0days just doesn't work.

R. Hatch



---
'The mirrors have grown vast and beautiful and very very *hungry*' 

The views and comments expressed in this email are the personal views and
opinions of the author and should in no way be considered an official
statement/release of QinetiQ.

Neither the author or QinetiQ can be held liable for actions taken based on
the information contained within this email.

_______________________________________________
Full-Disclosure - We believe in it.
Charter: http://lists.netsys.com/full-disclosure-charter.html

_______________________________________________
Full-Disclosure - We believe in it.
Charter: http://lists.netsys.com/full-disclosure-charter.html


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