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Microsoft to Publish Blue Hat Findings 154

Posted by Zonk
from the stylish-chapeau dept.
An anonymous reader wrote to mention an InfoWorld article about Microsoft's plan to publish some of the findings from last week's Blue Hat conference. From the article: "'Everything was fair game,' wrote SQL Server engineer Brad Sarsfield in a blog posting. 'Hearing senior executives say things like: 'I want the people responsible for those features in my office early next week; I want to get to the bottom of this' was at least one measure of success from my point of view for the event.' The Blue Hat name is a play on the Black Hat conferences, which have occasionally been criticized by IT vendors. The 'Blue' part comes from the color of badges that Microsoft staffers wear on campus." They have descriptions of some of the sessions up on the site for your perusal.
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Microsoft to Publish Blue Hat Findings

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  • Blank passwords (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dedazo (737510) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @03:31PM (#14935995) Journal
    I'm sure the executives started the whipping sessions with the person responsible for allowing SQL Server to function happily with a blank 'sa' password.
    • Are you kidding me? That's Microsoft "innovation" at it's finest! Customers always complain to Microsoft that they can't remember their password. So Microsoft created an innovative new way to remember your password: Don't use one!

      Only Microsoft can bring you incredible innovation like this.
      • Re:Blank passwords (Score:2, Insightful)

        by dedazo (737510)
        Only Microsoft can bring you incredible innovation like this.

        I enjoy a good Microsoft bash (oh lololo m$ nevar innovates!!1!) but your comment tells me you have probably no idea how commercial software works.

        I think the blank password "feature" is supremely stupid, and yes, it was probably there because one of their big clients asked for it. A lot of functionality in Microsoft products come from big business feedback and most of the time it's appropriate because enterprise clients are the ones that real

        • Re:Blank passwords (Score:5, Interesting)

          by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gmail.cFREEBSDom minus bsd> on Thursday March 16, 2006 @04:07PM (#14936287) Homepage Journal
          I enjoy a good Microsoft bash (oh lololo m$ nevar innovates!!1!)

          Good to know.

          but your comment tells me you have probably no idea how commercial software works.

          I'm not quite sure how this statement follows from your first. Do you like a joke or not? Maybe, just maybe, I was only joking?

          The key is that it's an option that you (as the DB admin) can choose to turn off. The MySQL root account will also run with a blank password when you first install it from, say, Synaptic. It's up to you to tighten it down.

          The reason why the root/sa passwords start blank is so you can configure the server immediately after installation. Using a default username/password of some sort (ala Oracle) wouldn't change the security situation to any appreciable degree, and only serves to force the DB administrator to look up the default every time he does an installation. (Which is likely to be rare enough to prevent him from memorizing it.)

          Yeash. Way to spoil a joke.
          • Don't like it, don't cry about it.
          • Maybe there should be some kind of restriction in the server while in this passwordless state. If the server refused to create a new database while the password is not setted, there would be no problem for instance.
          • The reason why the root/sa passwords start blank is so you can configure the server immediately after installation. Using a default username/password of some sort (ala Oracle) wouldn't change the security situation to any appreciable degree, and only serves to force the DB administrator to look up the default every time he does an installation. (Which is likely to be rare enough to prevent him from memorizing it.)

            Here's an interesting anecdote regarding this... A friend of mine is an IT manager for a mul

        • Its also worth noting that this isn't even an option anymore in Sql Server 2005.
        • Grown-ups have a saying : "Secure by default"

          > It's up to you to tighten it down.

          Thanks, that's a real help.

          Even with the knowledge of the damage that caused, you are still in favour of that design philosophy; you're hired !

    • Those vending machines that sell green paper were not working very well that day!

      Stranded and hungry . stuck in own little xp_cmdsHELL
    • Posturing (Score:5, Interesting)

      by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @04:02PM (#14936247)
      Yawn... Heard all of these "I'm going to fix that Monday morning" stuff before so many times from so many companies, and seen so little action.

      This is a pretty standard way for companies to handle lynch mobs of unhappy people: Put an exec up on a stage and have everyone yell their guts out and promise to investigate it thoroughly. This is not done just for software security, but just about everything.

      Undoubtedly one or two simple, yet highly visible, things (eg. the password check) will be fixed to show that some action was taken.

      • Agreed. That was the first thing I thought when I saw that "in my office on Monday morning" bollocks.
      • It doesn't matter how much an exec huffs and puffs if the developers don't respect the priorities he sets for them.
      • Ummm . . . an executive responsible for a product offering doesn't know (or can't find out) who is responsible for a product feature set?

        Is there any wonder why Microsoft has such a terrible product?

        I bet if they asked marketing who is responsible for a particular line in an advertisement, the answer would be almost instantly known.

        Microsoft - the greastest marketing company in the world.

    • If you deploy a database durectly on the internet or in an area of your LAN where folks can easily attempt to log into it, you deserve to be breached. Most smart app/network designers will place their database(s) behind layers of firewalls so only the application servers in question have access. In this situation, having a blank system admin password (although stupid) is not so much a risk - only your production deployment crew should even HAVE access - it's called defense in depth.
      • it's called defense in depth.

        "Defense in depth" does not mean that because you live in a gated community you can leave your front door unlocked. It means you lock your front door and you live in a gated community.

        Substituting one layer for another does absolutely nothing to increase the depth of your security.

        • I agree with you 100%. What I was trying to say was, if you live in a gated community, and you have a private gate around your house, and then another private gate around your safe-room, and then another gate around your desk and someone breaks into your safe that is in your desk, then I ask, how the hell did that happen?

          But in general, leaving your su password blank is stupid beyond words so I should have shut my mouth at the start of this thread! look out!: )
    • by ednopantz (467288) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @05:05PM (#14936693)
      yeah, it's not like any other database product ships with a weak password you are supposed to change.

      -Scott Tiger
    • Re:Blank passwords (Score:3, Interesting)

      by GodBlessTexas (737029)
      If Microsoft is so serious about security, could they please start by bringing their logging out of the dark ages and to what has been available on UNIX for some times. A UNIX system will log the difference between a bad username and a username with a bad password to the auth.error or auth.info facility, even if it delivers the same generic "Bad username or password" message to the user trying to log in. That's the information Windows actually logs, which makes realtime security monitoring a joke if you'r
  • Could it be...? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by filesiteguy (695431) <kai@perfectreign.com> on Thursday March 16, 2006 @03:36PM (#14936028) Homepage
    Could MS actually be taking security seriously?

    Naaahh...

    I'm sure this was a very interesting conference - nice to see names like Johnny Long there ( Google Hacking for Penetration Testers ) http://books.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/04/11/ 1750217&from=rss and other notables. I'm curious if MS will ever really look at what it is that causes so much to go wrong with their departmental OS.

    All the same, I'm sure the findings will be taken back, discussed among those who know and forgotten or buried by marketing executives.

    • Could MS actually be taking security seriously?

      Naaahh...


      I think Microsoft takes anything seriously that they can make money off, especially if it involves charging you for protection against the results of Microsoft's own cockups [microsoft.com].
    • well, I think that there's nothing wrong with a Blue Hat conference, it can even be useful, but trying to pretend that Blue Hatters will be attacking one's weak points is as disasterous as attacking Iraq or Iran and not expecting an ever-changing homebrewed guerilla warfare that adapts faster than one can plan.

      the reality is that the attackers will be Black Hats. Blue Hats may be useful, but they aren't the ones attacking you.
    • Re:Could it be...? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tpgp (48001) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @04:23PM (#14936397) Homepage
      Could MS actually be taking security seriously?

      Yes - yes they are.

      You see - MS's customers are demanding it - and MS is trying to deliver - after all, their competition [distrowatch.com] (mostly) is delivering. (See, this is why F/OSS is good for you even if you dont use it:)

      Anyway, I do think MS is making an attempt to take security seriously, but security needs are ultimately outshadowed by their marketing needs.

      Anyway, to bring things (mildly) back on topic, I'll repeat myself: [slashdot.org]

      Note to Microsoft

      We have more then enough hat colours as things stand.

      Blue Hat hacker sounds like an IBM employee anyway (or an Anti-Fedora agent?)

      • We have more then enough hat colours as things stand.
        Blue Hat hacker sounds like an IBM employee anyway (or an Anti-Fedora agent?)

        LOL!! Next thing you know they'll have a bunch of old ladies in a Red Hat conference...
        http://www.redhatsociety.com/ [redhatsociety.com]

        ...my 64-year-old mother, who's a member, could attend. (Of course, she DOES use SuSE, so the Fedora-types might reject her.)

  • Anyone ask why SSL still doesn't do AES? I mean it's 2006 and Microsoft is really the only vendor who DOESN'T do AES or 256-bit encryption in SSL. (I know, they said they'd put it in Vista, but that doesn't help the millions of Windows XP users or Windows 2003 administrators out there.)
    • And also 3des, which we require for managing our Nokias. Gives me a good excuse to run Firefox at work, when the director asks why I can't use our standard browser :)
    • by Anonymous Coward


      IE doesn't do AES or 256-bit encryption in SSL because we were asked to hold off on that from a certain 3 lettered US government agency (hint: starts with N).
      That's all I'm going to say on the matter, back to lurking.

      • So, you claim the NSA asked Microsoft to not put AES in IE? This doesn't make much sense either. Like I said, almost every other browser, client or server already supports AES on SSL (including those offered by IBM). It's just weird that Microsoft lags so far behind.
        • Not so weird (Score:5, Interesting)

          by abb3w (696381) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @05:14PM (#14936755) Journal
          So, you claim the NSA asked Microsoft to not put AES in IE? This doesn't make much sense either. Like I said, almost every other browser, client or server already supports AES on SSL (including those offered by IBM). It's just weird that Microsoft lags so far behind.

          Not that weird. Yes, every other browser/client/server supports it. IE still has comfortably more than half [hitslink.com] of the browser market, even though it's in decline. So, if the NSA can't break AES, they ask M$ not to put it in, and a large chunk of the traffic remains readily readable.

          "But," you may say, "anyone who knows what they're doing will use something more secure." True. However on one hand, crooks and terrorists are often (albeit not always) stupid, and might not always do so; and on the other hand, the easily broken traffic can be quickly sorted out, leaving a smaller quantity of harder-to-break traffic where content analysis is neglected but traffic analysis [wikipedia.org] approaches become profitable. Limiting the capabilities of the drooling-luser set is helpful, because it makes it easier to pick out the bad guys who hide by leaving a smaller set of both the good and the bad guys who can hide. Rather than struggling to separate all the good from the bad, they can first quickly separate the smart from the stoooopid.

          Of course, there's no proof the AC's assertion is true... but it doesn't matter much for the sake of arguement.

    • Can't speak for SSL, but SQL Server 2005 has AES, RC4 (128 bit) RSA, and Triple DES built in for it's internal encryption possibilities.

      • Yeah, Microsoft finally added AES to its core crypto stuff back in 2003 (I think), but for some odd reason they didn't extend support into the areas that would have used it most: SSL for IIS and SSL for IE. (Dunno if Outlook Express would have used it...probably.)
  • obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by endrue (927487) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @03:38PM (#14936054)
    The 'Blue' part comes from the color of screens that Microsoft staffers see on campus.

    Someone had to say it, folks!

    - Andrew
  • by Nuclear Elephant (700938) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @03:40PM (#14936065) Homepage
    I want the people responsible for those features in my office early next week

    With quotes like that, it's no wonder Vista's long list of features has been dwindled down to a new Media Player and better video drivers.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      >I want the people responsible for those features in my office early next week

      With quotes like that, it's no wonder Vista's long list of features has been dwindled down to a new Media Player and better video drivers.


      Ok, now Im confused. I thought the current /. theory about delays and feature cancellations in Vista was that the development team were to busy dodging chairs to get any coding done?
      • by hey! (33014) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @04:08PM (#14936298) Homepage Journal
        Ok, now Im confused. I thought the current /. theory about delays and feature cancellations in Vista was that the development team were to busy dodging chairs to get any coding done?

        OK, it's time to have mercy on you guys who haven't figured it out.

        There is no Microsoft.

        It's all a MMOG/interactive fiction thing where geeks pretend to be code monkeys in service to the evil empire. C'mon, the Gates was a bit subtle, I admit; you could almost believe he existed. But Ballmer should have clued you in. No real board would hire a guy like that unless they were running a side show and needed a "Wild Man of Borneo".

        The coolest part of the hack was when they started sending out boxes of their "product", complete with CDs and manuals (look closely -- a lot of it's just "ipsum lorem"). That was sheer brilliance. I picked one myself as a souveneir, I'm looking at the box up on my book shelf right now, it's very well done. Just the other I had to keep my elderly father-in-law, who was an engineer back in the day and no dummy, from "borrowing" my copy. Boy would he have been surprised.

        Oh... God Gad.

        You didn't actually install any of that shit, did you?

    • Frankly, I'd rather have only a new media player and better video drivers if it means not having yet more security holes in the base OS.

      The message shouldn't be: Don't implement new features. It should be: Think about security when implmenting new features. Remember that attacks come from below your level of abstraction as well.
    • by ArsenneLupin (766289) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @05:09PM (#14936725)
      With quotes like that, it's no wonder Vista's long list of features has been dwindled down to a new Media Player and better video drivers.

      You mean, like video drivers that won't crash if you visit certain web sites [bluescreen.org.lu]?

  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @03:44PM (#14936109)

    Server engineer Brad Sarsfield in a blog posting. 'Hearing senior executives say things like: 'I want the people responsible for those features in my office early next week; I want to get to the bottom of this' was at least one measure of success from my point of view for the event.'

    I'd be a little more worried if I was Brad. That feature your boss wants to know who's responsible for..what if it's 'Clippy'???

    • i know that if i was the one that was responsible for Clippy i sure as hell wouldn't sign my name at the top of that code...

      but it does make you wonder why the manager doesn't know whom is responsible for the code
    • I'd be a little more worried if I was Brad. That feature your boss wants to know who's responsible for..what if it's 'Clippy'???

      Worse...Brad cops [technet.com] to being responsible for the component in SQL Server exploited by the Slammer worm. It's not clear if he actually wrote the buffer code vulnerable to overrun, or he just owns fixing it now.
  • "The 'Blue' part comes from the color of badges that Microsoft staffers wear on campus."

    "Badges?"

    "We don't need no stink'n badges!"

  • by gurutc (613652) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @03:49PM (#14936146)
    the Seattle Inquisition!!!
  • Which is it? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @03:51PM (#14936156)
    > Microsoft's site will not have the kind of controversial material that has popped up at Black Hat. "All researchers at the BlueHat are responsible," Kornbrust said.

    Does that mean domesticated or tame?

  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Thursday March 16, 2006 @03:52PM (#14936168)
    This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back.
    You put on the blue hat - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.
    You put on the red hat - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the security-hole goes.
  • by gurutc (613652) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @03:54PM (#14936186)
    Now just how do they expect to get Steve Jobs in their office?
    • Perhaps you meant Merzouga Wilberts? People forget that Jobs just stole the idea from Xerox before Gates stole it from him.
      • by Drizzt Do'Urden (226671) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @04:35PM (#14936474) Homepage
        They bought it from Xerox, but they were unhappy with the terms of the contract seeing what Apple did with it.

        This is why Apple won in court against Xerox. It is a urban legend that Apple stole it from Xerox.
        • by kpat154 (467898) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @04:46PM (#14936562)
          Well, not really. Apple gave Xerox stock in exchange for allowing the devs to see what was going on at Parc with the express understanding that Apple was attempting to create a UI. Xerox didn't expect Apple to completely rip off their work (which was stupid) and they later sued Apple for that fact. This is almost exactly what MS did to Apple.

          Also, Apple didn't win in court. When Apple sued MS for theft Xerox sued Apple for the same thing. Once Apple lost the suit against MS they simply settled out of court w/ Xerox.
          • Well.. according to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org], it is false to say that Apple stole it from Xerox, because it extended a lot from the work done at Parc.
            • Sigh... I did not mean that they literally dawned black ski-masks, snuck into Xerox Parc at night, and stole the idea. My previous post should have clarified this for you.
          • I've seen video footage of the machines in Xerox PARC, and while some concepts made it to Apple, there's little similarity between the two systems. Apple extended the GUI far beyond what Xerox created, actually making it usable.

            You stretch things too far by saying Apple completely ripped of Xerox' work.
  • Large company actually paying attention to what it's seeing
    yes we can all feel cynical based on many other similar stories.

    but every now and again a company will surprise it and attempt to actually <i>solve</i> problems.
    A lot of Microsoft's problems date from interesting "for the user" support features. This could be interesting to follow...
  • by Stephen Samuel (106962) <samuel@@@bcgreen...com> on Thursday March 16, 2006 @04:19PM (#14936370) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft is happy to let us know the stuff that they're happy to let us know about the Blue Hat conference.
    (can you tell I've just been watching Red Vs Blue [roosterteeth.com]?

    I do hope that nobody actually paid for this news.

    "All researchers at the BlueHat are responsible,"
    guh.
  • Blame to Go Around (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vjmurphy (190266) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @04:19PM (#14936373) Homepage
    "Hearing senior executives say things like: 'I want the people responsible for those features in my office early next week; I want to get to the bottom of this' was at least one measure of success from my point of view"

    Ah, good to know the culture of blame is still a backbone of American industry. Likely that those senior executives are the ones that requested said features originally. But that's okay, I'm sure they'll find some scapegoats.
    • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @05:14PM (#14936757) Journal
      "Hearing senior executives say things like: 'I want the people responsible for those features in my office early next week; I want to get to the bottom of this' was at least one measure of success from my point of view"
      "I want the people responsible for those features in my office early next week; I want to get to the bottom of this" is management-speak for "not it!".
    • Of course, the correct thing to do in this situation is to take the executive aside and whisper "You're responsible for these features..."
  • by 955301 (209856) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @04:20PM (#14936375) Journal

    "I want the people responsible for those features in my office early next week"

    The features with security issues? Isn't he risking a fire hazard by doing this? I thought buildings had maximum occupancy ratings?

    *ducks*

  • by GeneralEmergency (240687) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @04:22PM (#14936390) Journal


    Microsoft's site will not have the kind of controversial material that has popped up at Black Hat. "All researchers at the BlueHat are responsible," Kornbrust said.

    Translation: All presenters know what side of their bread is buttered and by whom.

    Let's celebrate our new openness by censoring ourselves!

    Somebody kick me in the shin please. I must be asleep and dreaming that I'm stuck on that Moron Planet again.

  • by benjamin_pont (839499) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @04:29PM (#14936434)
    The Blue Hat name is a play on the Black Hat conferences, which have occasionally been criticized by IT vendors. The 'Blue' part comes from the color of badges that Microsoft staffers wear on campus.

    Actually the Blue Hats are a symbolic salute to their employer's greatest technical accomplishment: The Blue Screen of Death
  • Poor executives. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by miffo.swe (547642) <daniel.hedblom@ g m a il.com> on Thursday March 16, 2006 @04:38PM (#14936507) Homepage Journal
    I find it perticulary funny that executives want to smack the ones resonsible for random features. From what i have read and understand the executives is the ones who constantly have demanded more features and not security.

    Im sure the staff at Redmond is eagerly awaiting the executives bitchslapping eachother and themselves to the next monday. Im sure most of the marketing department will call in sick.
    • by AutopsyReport (856852) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @05:13PM (#14936752)
      I find it perticulary funny that executives want to smack the ones resonsible for random features.

      Oh it's very typical for management to put the heat on individuals, but problems like this come about because of an extremely poor process. While one may argue that an individual has a responsibility to follow standards, it is also management's responsibility to ensure everyone else does, too.

      So when something like this leaks, you can blame management, not the programmer. He made the mistake, but the even larger mistake is that the process didn't catch it. There will be no success when the course of action is for an executive to call out a programmer, but it is strongly indicative that these problems will be repeated.

      • Process? When I think "process", I think IBM. Process stifles innovation. Yes, you need a balance between process and wrecklessness, but process isn't the answer. Seriously -- what talented, creative devs want to walk into a place where they have to produce 10 lines of documentation for every line of code? Nobody -- that's why startups are cool and MS, Google, and Amazon still try to retain a startup culture.
  • 'I want the people responsible for those features in my office early next week'

    Somebody is going to practice throwing chairs during the weekend..and many others are gonna practice ducking them...

  • by gregarican (694358) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @05:07PM (#14936708) Homepage
    'I want the people responsible for those features in my office early next week'

    I recall maybe 8-9 years ago at my large former employer. There were some screw-ups going on coming from an IT subdepartment at corporate headquarters. After trying in vain to work around things on my end I finally picked up the phone and called up the person in charge. Before I could launch into my tirade the person said, "I'm in charge, but I'm not responsible." Reminds me of what will happen Monday morning amidst the chair-littered corridors of Redmond. Lots of finger pointing and ducking...
    • "I'm in charge, but I'm not responsible."

      I love phrases like that. I read it and immediately translated using my CorpTruthSpeak device to "I'm an excess headcount," although if it was said with slightly different intonation it might be "I cannot manage, and need to be trained or replaced."
  • by redelm (54142) on Thursday March 16, 2006 @08:23PM (#14938049) Homepage
    Comments like "I want those people on my carpet" are just foolish. The beatings will continue until morale improves.

    People do things for reasons. Hammering them for things that turn out badly just produces CYA, fear and paralysis. Red in tooth-and-claw management always devours itself.

  • Red Hat, White Hat,
    Grey Hat, Too!

    Black Hat, Blue Hat,
    Orange Hat, Who?

    Hey... When is Microsoft going to respect the orange (MS temporary) grunts and their 1337 skills? Of all the MS workers I've talked with, only the Orange ones have appeared to be been finding all the undisclosed vulnerabilities.

    Sounds like it may be career-threatening to be a Blue and while reporting in an undisclosed vulnerability within Redmond campus.

    Blue Hat, bah! Just a forum to mock the blue workers, and perhaps, justifiably so.

  • From a description of one of the sessions (names changed to protect... somebody):

    ... it is often the case that developers expect a core technology to provide one security assertion, when in fact it provides a whole set of unrelated assertions. X and Y have found that many security flaws ... are the result of a fundamental misunderstanding of a core security technology.

    This talk covered the security technologies in Windows that ...[are]... almost without exception, misused. ... X and Y discussed how to find
  • Can You Build Secure Solutions Built on Microsoft Core Technologies? The shortest of the Blue Hat seminars

Passwords are implemented as a result of insecurity.

Working...