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Microsoft expands bug info-sharing program to larger crowd

Acknowledges increased risk of leaks to hackers

July 29, 2013 01:01 PM ET

Computerworld - Microsoft today announced an expansion of a program that shares information with select security firms that will give a new class of researchers access to threat data before the company patches its software.

The current Microsoft Active Protections Program (MAPP) will be scrapped, said Mike Reavey, a senior director of the Microsoft Security Response Center, or MSRC, in an interview Friday. Taking its place will be a new two-pronged program.

MAPP for Security Vendors will take the place of the original MAPP, which debuted in October 2008. Like its predecessor, MAPP for Security Vendors will provide detailed data on vulnerabilities Microsoft intends to patch. Some of the vetted vendors, those with the longest time in MAPP, will receive vulnerability details from Microsoft earlier than before: Three business days prior to Patch Tuesday rather than the current one day.

What Reavey called "entry-level partners" will continue to get bug information just a day ahead of time.

In 2008, Microsoft cast MAPP as a way to give proven security developers time to write detection signatures so that they could protect customers as soon as patches shipped. Reavey said the motivation hadn't changed.

"Vendors have told us that if they had a bit more time, they could create even higher-quality protection that would cover more scenarios and have less of a chance of generating false positives," said Reavey.

Also new to MAPP for Security Vendors is an initiative that will rope some participants into helping Microsoft's quality control work.

Dubbed MAPP Validation, the initiative will give a subset of the security vendors additional threat detection data -- not of the vulnerabilities themselves, but how to spot attacks exploiting those vulnerabilities -- up to a couple of weeks before patches go public.

Those companies, said Reavey, will be obligated to file bug reports and test the detections -- he called those responsibilities a "tax" levied in return for the right to receive early information -- in the hope that they will spot problems Microsoft overlooked.

"Not everyone will want to sign up for [MAPP Validation]," Reavey acknowledged.

Microsoft already has a similar program, called the Software Update Validation Program (SUVP), where large corporate customers test patches before they're released to help Redmond find flaws that break workflows or cause crashes.

The completely new part of MAPP, called MAPP for Responders, may be the most controversial. Under that part of the program, Microsoft will share threat intelligence information, including malicious URLs, malware file hashes, incident data and detection guidance, with a broader audience.

Microsoft envisions that MAPP for Responders will include corporations, government-funded security response teams -- called CERTs, like the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team -- and private organizations.



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