Microsoft Opens the Gates to Hack Their Web ServicesApril 21, 2008 – 5:16 AM
It seems like Microsoft are starting to get serious about security, in a very progressive move they have said they are ok with ethical hackers finding security flaws in their online services.
It’s been fairly ok so far to hack away at software installed on your own hardware, but hitting remotely hosted applications has been a big no-no with individuals facing legal action even when they were just trying to help.
In a first for a major company, Microsoft has publicly pledged not to sue or press charges against ethical hackers who responsibly find security flaws in its online services.
The promise, extended Saturday at the ToorCon security conference in Seattle, is a bold and significant move. While researchers are generally free to attack legally acquired software running on their own hardware, they can face severe penalties for probing websites that run on servers belonging to others. In some cases, organizations have pursued legal action against researchers who did nothing more than discover and responsibly report serious online vulnerabilities.
Personally I welcome such a move and hope more companies act in a foreword thinking and ethically just manner. There are many good guys finding flaws, and sadly then don’t report them for fear or litigation. In turn the bad guys find the same flaws and exploit them for gain.
Actions by more big companies to ‘ok’ ethical hacking would make things a little more secure for everybody.
As things stand, researchers frequently turn a blind eye to gaping security holes on websites for fear of suffering a fate similar to that of Eric McCarty. The prospective student at the University of Southern California found a flaw in the school’s online application system that gave him access to other applicants’ records. In 2006, he was charged with computer intrusion after producing proof of his finding.
“There’s definitely a lot of trepidation among legitimate researchers to find flaws in public-facing web applications because you never know how [companies] are going to react,” said Alex Stamos, a founding partner at iSEC Partners, a firm that provides penetration-testing services. “That hurts us because the only people finding these flaws are the bad guys.”
For once I’m praising Microsoft, I know it’s an odd and rare occurrence but they are doing the right thing!