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Microsoft's 'Secret' Security Summit

Microsoft hosts meeting of security experts, who are plotting to wrest control of the Internet back from the bad guys

It was the best- and worst-kept secret in the security industry this week: A closed-door summit held today and yesterday at Microsoft's headquarters that brought together representatives from antivirus and other security vendors, CERT organizations, the military, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, FBI, SANS, ISPs, Cisco, academia -- and Microsoft, of course.

The objective: finding a way for the good guys to win the Internet security battle. Gadi Evron, a botnet expert with Beyond Security and coordinator of the Internet Security Operations and Intelligence II Workshop, says the bad guys have control of the Internet today. "And if they want to take someone out of the game, they can do it," he says, via botnets and other means of attack.

"We've already lost the war, in my opinion," he says. "This is a good start for us to start winning some battles... We can do this."

Evron says it's not just about botnets and zero-day attacks, which were sprinkled among the presentations at the workshop -- his brainchild, with Microsoft acting as host. "We want people to be safer on the Net," he says. He points to a story about a security buddy's mother, who got duped into purchasing Mozilla's free Firefox browser on the Internet for $50.

Organized crime has abused the Internet such that its future is in jeopardy, Evron says. "Right now, what scares me more is not banks in an attack wave every day, but making sure the bad guys don't call all the shots" on the Internet to the point where it's no longer a safe place to be, he says. "When they will do whatever it takes to take you out, online or in real life, it's a whole different ballgame."

The ISOI DA Workshop is all about getting people working across company and country borders to stem this problem, he says. "What we are doing is based on goodwill," he adds. "We decided to meet and see how we can cooperate... Once we meet face-to-face, you can take it to the next level."

It's possible new groups could officially form out of the workshop, he says, but the main goal is to share knowledge and experience and try to figure out ways to coordinate a more unified defense.

"The only real hope we have is to bring together the entire gamut of security and share information," says Randy Abrams, director of technical education for Eset, who was scheduled to speak on a zero-day attack coordination panel at the workshop today. "Despite the progress in online communications, significant trust is still a function of getting to know people personally."

"The second barrier has been knowing who can help," Abrams says. "This includes knowing who has relevant information, and also knowing that relevant information even exists. There have traditionally been two significant barriers to this necessary joining of forces. One of the issues has to do with trust. Who do I trust to share information with? Who does Cisco, Microsoft, the FBI, or any of the other players trust?"

The participants were careful not to divulge many details on the sessions, even though the names and speakers were available on the Web. The idea was to provide a safe haven to share information privately and to hash out solutions to Internet problems like zero-days, targeted attacks, botnets and zombies, worms, phishing, online banking security holes, and law enforcement and prosecution of cybercriminals.

"As interesting as the presentations are, the real value of this conference is networking," Eset's Abrams says.

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

  • Beyond Security Ltd.
  • ESET
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