LAS VEGAS—Remember the LSD—or Last Stage of Delirium—hacking group?
Back in 2003, the group of four Polish security researchers discovered the RPC (Remote Procedure Call) interface vulnerability that would later be used to unleash the Blaster worm, but because of distrust over Microsofts willingness to address software flaws at the time, LSD members had to be coaxed into sharing their findings.
Today, LSD is on Microsofts payroll, working on what is being hailed as the "largest ever penetration test" of an operating system coming out of Redmond, Wash.
According to John Lambert, senior group manager in Microsofts SWI (Secure Windows Initiative), LSD members are part of an "internal team of hackers" conducting simulated attacks against Windows Vista.
The groups members are all graduates of computer science from the Poznan University of Technology and have worked as the security team of the Poznan Supercomputing and Networking Center, in Poznan, Poland.
The hiring of third-party security research outfits and independent hackers is significant on many fronts. It underscores Microsofts public push to embrace the hacking community and shed its image as a company with a lax approach to security.
The list of external security consultants hired to audit the Vista code to look for weaknesses, technical flaws and vulnerabilities reads like a whos-who list for the infosec industry. Lambert said about 20 well-known researchers who regularly appear at its "Blue Hat" conference have been given access to the full source code, specs and threat models for review.
"Were not blocking them from looking anywhere. They have access to everything. Go everywhere and find all the bugs you absolutely can," Lambert said.
The pen testers had full access to members of product teams and security engineers in Redmond and spent between one week and two months hacking and trying to break potential targets within Vista.
He said the tests were diagnostic in nature and included the engineering of remediation where necessary.
In a packed presentation at the Black Hat Briefings here, Lambert shared a sampling of the pen test results, which he said yielded "rabbit holes" and a wide range of contradictions in security assumptions.
The code review also turned up what Lambert called "failure of imagination," process handicaps and several comical and unwise file names.
Austin Wilson, director of Windows product management, said the company also retained 10 outside consulting companies to help with the implementation of the SDL (Security Development Lifecyle), Microsofts mandatory cradle-to-grave principles that cover every stage of software creation.
The outside research companies include Matasano, a New York-based startup staffed by several high-profile security experts, including former Microsoft security strategist Windows Snyder, @Stake co-founder Dave Goldsmith, SecurityFocus co-founder Jeremy Rauch and former Arbor Networks developer Thomas Ptacek.
NGSSoftware, a British database security outfit renowned for its work uncovering flaws in Oracle products, has also been retained to conduct Vista security testing.
Wilson said the list of consultants also includes Cybertrust, iSec Partners, Code Blau Security Concepts, I/O Active, Net-square, Password Consultancy, Security Innovation and n.runs.