Microsoft has been talking about community-based defense for some time now. This week, I want to provide a personal dimension to the campaign, and give an update on recent activities. Curiously, as I started to write this post, a couple of phrases popped up, which despite being somewhat trite, seemed appropriate – "change is constant" and "the more things change the more they stay the same."
Over the last years my outreach efforts expanded beyond the security researcher part of the security ecosystem to include CERTs and other guidance providers, as well as security organizations and companies. My most recent past and future activities give a view.
Before we get into the trip report, though, I want to spend just a second on a couple of guiding principles and introduce some vocabulary.
I attend a lot of conferences around the world. A number of years ago, I started referring to them as “watering holes” – like watering holes security conferences are the places in the ecosystem that attract a diverse population focused on a common need. The most interesting conferences are the ones with the best “hallway track” – the ones that attract the most diverse and most interesting attendees also typically generate the most interesting hallway (or after hours) discussions.
My objective in attending conferences is twofold. I want to foster community support, help make connections between Microsoft and different parts of the ecosystem, and make bridging connections between parts of the ecosystem that might not otherwise mingle. Secondly, I want to stimulate conversation about shared problems, ensure attendees understand what Microsoft is doing and promote discussion about collaborative solutions.
In December, I was in Sao Paulo at the DISI 2008 – Dia Internacional de Segurança em Informática; an event co-hosted the Brazilian Army and FIESP – the Industry Federation of the State of Sao Paulo. This conference was interesting because of the community it brings together and the challenges unique to Brazil. I presented last year and delivered an embryonic call to action for community-based defense. I was very pleased to be able to return a year later and give an update that showed Microsoft’s progress. I pointed to programs like the Microsoft Active Protections Program (MAPP), the Industry Consortium for Advancement of Security on the Internet (ICASI), the Exploitability Index and Microsoft Vulnerability Research (MSVR) to demonstrate that we are walking the walk.
January found me in California at a Bay Area security confabulation whose theme was “Partnerships: finding ways to energize a common defense.” The attendees came from across the industry and the security ecosystem. I found the hallway track(s) exceptionally valuable and especially enjoyed the discussion and presentations on cloud computing security. I presented on ICASI, and gave a behind the scenes look at its goals, formation, and current state. Microsoft, along with Cisco, IBM, Intel, and Juniper formed ICASI in 2008 to drive excellence and innovation in security response and to promote effective industry collaboration to address the rising tide of multi-vendor security issues.
Also in January, I volunteered (and was accepted J) to be the Program Chair for the 2010 conference organized by the Forum for Incident Response and Security Teams (FIRST). I’m a relative newcomer to the FIRST family and realize I have a fair amount to learn – the education starts at the next Steering Committee meeting in Miami and continues at the FIRST 2009 conference this June in Kyoto. I am very pleased by the warm reception and the opportunities this group has to influence and drive positive ecosystem change.
I also took on a new role within TwC Security in January. I handed over responsibility for the monthly security update releases to Mike Reavey in order to better focus on understanding and addressing emerging security threats. The new job is completely different, yet very much still the same. You’ll continue to see me at conferences around the world, I’ll continue to be active in the industry and ecosystem and I’ll continue to promote dialog about the changing threat landscape and what Microsoft can and should do to strengthen Community Based Defense.
*Posting is provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confers no rights.*
Sveika! Hey Steve here, been a while since I posted on the EcoStrat blog. With all the security events that happened during the latter half of 2008, I have been very focused on working with the security update releases and Microsoft Active Protections Program (MAPP).
You are probably wondering what an EcoStrat guy has to do with security updates and other technical deliverables. Well, I want to take a moment to explain why this makes sense. Before taking on the role of working with the monthly security release team and the MAPP program team, I primarily worked with the partner outreach team, managing ecosystem changes through industry partnerships. The partner outreach team’s goals/focus, within the scope of the EcoStrat team, is to work with industry to establish partnerships and initiatives to protect consumers. One of the most visible results is the MAPP initiative. This is a program that works with the security industry ecosystem to create an effective conduit for inbound and outbound information flow.
This was a large effort to affect ecosystem change externally, but what about internally? Microsoft is a large company that has an interesting culture and ecosystem of its own with developers, technology evangelists, security engineers, program managers, marketers, etc...
It became very clear that external ecosystem changes weren’t going to be enough without an effort focused on internal ecosystem changes as well. We needed a number of ways to effectively drive internal change with information we were getting from the external ecosystem while still following one of our core tenets to focus primarily on efforts that protect customers. One way we can do that is by releasing monthly security updates. Within the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC), we have an exceptional security release team that manages this large and complex effort. The team’s main focus is to make sure quality security updates are delivered to customers in a consistent manner. We noticed that a way to accomplish this was to become what we call “change agents.” Change agents influence change on a large scale most of the time without the formal authority to do so. This made sense as the release team manages the monthly release via a process that doesn’t have them building/owning any binary packages for release. They effectively were driving ecosystem changes just internally. So it made sense to have someone bridge both the internal and external sides of ecosystem change efforts.
So I’m grateful, and excited, to be in a position to work on both sides of the coin to effect change. And, I get to work with folks currently managing MAPP and the security release every month to help make these changes possible. Their good work also makes it possible for me leave Redmond and engage directly with the community in crucial industry events. Just recently, I had the chance to jump back into my partner outreach role within the EcoStrat team and had the chance to travel.
I am starting to really understand the need to be multicultural in the job we do here on the EcoStrat team. Many times it’s the cultural differences that sometime make or break the security messages we are trying to get across. This is one reason why this team travels a lot to target every place that Microsoft technologies are prevalent. It’s also the number one reason why I pick myself up and out of the day-to-day operations to understand these differences.
Last month, I got to put back on my FIRST Steering committee hat, and I traveled to the beautiful but cold city of Riga, Latvia. The FIRST Steering Committee has four meetings a year to get work done for its members. We usually use the technical colloquiums (TC) as good times to get together and partake in the great “watering hole” activities described in Andrew Cushman’s last blog.
The TC is organized by a local host. The local host for this one was Trans-European Research and Education Network Association (TERENA) computer security incident response team (TF-CSIRT). TERENA is an organization that focuses on offering a forum to collaborate, innovate and share knowledge in order to foster the development of internet technology, infrastructure and services for the research and education communities. They present and train at the TC server to educate security teams, highlighting new techniques to deal with relevant computer security issues. Usually I get to just sit back and enjoy the presentations but his time was a little different. The majority of the presentations were centered on the latest Conficker worm. Not familiar to you? Well, cruise on down to the following Microsoft Conficker page and relevant posts on the MSRC and MMPC blogs.
Being the lone Microsoft guy and a member of the Steering Committee was very interesting to say the least. After this conference, I personally know almost every European CERT or CSIRT contact after fielding some good and frank questions about Conficker.
Like I said, I spent most of the day fielding questions about Conficker and Microsoft’s actions to help security teams in their effort to protect consumers from this threat. Microsoft has a robust process when it comes to our response to issues so I was well prepared with information that went above and beyond the out-of-band security update that was released for this issue back in October (MS08-067)
Although the frank questioning felt like on-the-spot cavity cleaning, I was extremely happy to have the chance to clear up some of the myths and give some actionable information to these important security stakeholders. It also allowed me to understand information that the MSRC usually doesn’t get a chance to receive first hand. Also, having a response guy from Microsoft at FIRST allowed the security teams to understand that we are taking the problem seriously. One internal ecosystem change that was supported came about from feedback from this trip. One clear feedback item was to make sure that we had a single authoritative source/place for Microsoft efforts on Conficker. This information added more key data points to indicate that the teams in Microsoft managing the Conficker efforts were doing the right thing in moving forward with creating a single place for outlining Conficker resources. This is just one example of using external information to aid in driving change to help the greater ecosystem at large.
My Trip wasn’t all fun J
There was the 3 ½ days worth of Steering Committee (SC) meeting to decide various organizational things. One major topic was the 2009 Annual FIRST conference (AGM) in Kyoto, Japan. The AGM gives us the opportunity to meet and share presentation on a number of security topics. The logistics of putting on a large conference are mind boggling in my opinion. I am glad to say, I will enjoy watching our own Andrew Cushman figure out some of these issues firsthand as he was named the 2010 Program chair for the 2010 Annual First conference.
I love the fact that Microsoft makes a point to work with the security community at large and truly values community-based defense. Our consistency and trusted relationships make it much easier to have the conversations at the proverbial “watering holes” to get messages across to the security ecosystem that we do care and take the job of securing customers at all level as our main priority.
Now that I am settling back into a groove, I look forward to heading out and doing more in my EcoStrat role. Stay tuned for more from me as I travel to CanSecWest and Black Hat Europe.
Steve “Capt Steve” Adegbite
Share this post :