The improved security in Microsoft's newest software products may leave some security researchers looking elsewhere for work.
That was the message that some security professionals took away from BlueHat, an event last week on Microsoft's campus that allows security researchers to mingle with Microsoft developers.
"One of the messages we got was to look in the future for [our products] to not be so successful," said Pedram Amini, manager of security research at 3Com Corp.'s Tipping Point division. That's because Microsoft is applying a lot of the technologies used by security researchers in house, making the third-party techniques not as effective, he said.
For example, he said that Microsoft Office has been susceptible to fault by fuzzing, an automated technique for finding software faults when access to the code isn't available. But Microsoft has recently put more effort into using fuzzing itself, so now third-party fuzzing technologies are unlikely to be as necessary for Office 2007.
One well-known researcher who goes by the name Halvar Flake called Vista "arguably the most secure closed-source OS available on the market," in a blog post about BlueHat. "As a result I think that most of the security researchers will move on to greener pastures for a while. Why try to chase a difficult overflow out of Vista when you have Acrobat Reader installed, some antivirus software with shoddy file parsing, and the latest iTunes?"
But the security researchers don't expect to have time on their hands just because Vista and Office 2007 are more secure than their predecessors. "It's not like our industry is done now," said Dan Kaminksy, director of penetration testing services for IOActive. He pointed to weaknesses in web-based services and technologies like virtualisation.
BlueHat typically happens twice a year and Microsoft does not allow members of the press to attend.
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