Community-Based Defense: Looking Outward, Moving Forward

Two years ago, in front of a standing-room only crowd here at Black Hat, we introduced three new information sharing programs as well as the concept of Community-Based Defense. The underlying concept shared by all three programs was simple-collaboration will be key to preventing and defending against online crime going forward; no one company, individual or technology can do it alone. The call to action was bold-put aside competitive and philosophical differences and move beyond our individual boundaries to work together to help improve and protect the broader security ecosystem. The reaction-applause!

We all know Black Hat can be a tough crowd, and wearing the blue badge can at times amplify that – making the positive response really pleasant. But it wasn’t altogether unexpected.  Each of the then-new programs-the Microsoft Active Protections Program (MAPP), Microsoft Exploitability Index and Microsoft Vulnerability Research (MSVR)-were fueled by, and designed to address, customer needs.  And recognizing the collaborative nature of two of the programs, we’d spent months getting feedback and support within the community, from customers to vendors to researchers, to get into a position to make the announcements that day. 

Today, the MSRC released its second annual progress report on those programs-“Building a Safer, More Trusted Internet through Information Sharing”-and we’re excited to share the results.

Some highlights:

  • MAPP now has 65 members worldwide, providing protections for hundreds of millions of customers.
  • MSVR identified and privately coordinated vulnerabilities with 32 and 19 vendors in the first and second years of operations respectively.
  • Of the 349 Exploitability Index ratings provided for vulnerabilities resolved by Microsoft, there has been only one revision, which involved a reduction in risk assessment severity.

Speaking of the success and impact of MAPP, we couldn’t be more thrilled with the announcement today that Adobe Systems Incorporated will begin sharing early warning details on their vulnerabilities through MAPP beginning this fall. Two years ago, there was broad feedback throughout the industry-from analysts, customers, and partners-that MAPP was a game-changer, shifting competitive advantage away from the bad guys (criminals, attackers) to the good guys (protection providers, customers). For the first time, protection providers were able to operate together on a massive scale, developing and preparing protections for their customers to be made available upon release of Microsoft security vulnerabilities — and ahead of the exploits developed by attackers. Today, we believe the same game has been raised a level with Adobe helping to advance protection time, giving an upper hand to the global network of defenders in the battle against online crime.

Many of you have already read Matt Thomlinson’s introduction last week of our new policy of coordinated vulnerability disclosure and Katie Moussouris’ expansion on the concept and the need for reframing the community’s approach and mindset from the subjective language of “responsible” to the collaborative label of “coordinated.” I don’t intend to rehash that here, except to say that we look forward to continuing the dialogue on this new policy at Black Hat and beyond. This move didn’t happen overnight as we believe it is reflective of a broader groundswell within the community that’s been underway for some time. We’re encouraged by the overwhelming volume of support behind the shift as evidenced in Katie’s post and in interactions and response since then.

Even with more concerted attention on community-based defense and this growing sense of shared responsibility throughout the security community, attackers will still continue to case systems and applications looking for vulnerabilities. The stakes are high and criminals won’t relent.  So today, we’re also announcing the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET). 

EMET is a free tool that provides a way for IT professionals to add some of the latest security mitigations — such as DEP, mandatory ASLR and export address table (EAT) filtering — to software to protect against exploits of vulnerabilities.  It helps harden existing applications from current exploit techniques without requiring any recoding. Look for an SRD blog post in August announcing availability of the new toolkit on the Microsoft Download Center.

More details on each of these announcements can be found at our Black Hat Press Site:

Every Black Hat is different, but year after year one of the highlights of the show for Microsoft is continuing the conversation with researchers, partners and customers, and then acting on it. This is a community that is bound together by a common purpose-that is to improve the security landscape. It used to be enough to expect others to make that happen; but today, no one is exempt from helping to ensure the safety of the Internet. We’re in this together, and we’re better together. If you’re at the show, pay us a visit at the booth or say hello when you see us; in any case, we look forward to hearing from you and continuing this work together.


Dave Forstrom, Director, Microsoft Trustworthy Computing