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Russinovich Lets Loose on Zero Day, Other Hacker Exploits

To the average person, Mark Russinovich is as obscure as the fourth Osmond brother. But to IT folks, Mark is every bit a hero as Wozniak, Gates or Ken Olsen.

Mark is also an example of Microsoft's thick skin. Where some take criticism personally, I've found Microsoft to be eminently even-handed. Heck, the company still talks to me!

Russinovich was a thorn in Microsoft's side for years. A security guru, Mark publicized Microsoft security flaws. And in the early days of Windows NT, he proved that NT Workstation and NT Server were essentially the same -- something Microsoft denied at the time but later came to embrace and even brag about.

But Mark's company Winternals was so good, and the Russinovich mind so compelling, that Microsoft bought both. Now Mark is a Microsoft fellow and a newly published novelist with his "Zero Day."

The book is a novel but contains security advice every IT pro should take to heart.

Here are a few lessons gleaned: Wonder why systems are compromised? Sure, software ain't perfect, but most breaches are due to IT neglect, easily cracked passwords, poor configuration and unpatched holes.

While IT neglect is a dangerous thing, in the future IT will have less of a role in security as automation largely takes over. The point is that systems are increasingly complex and human intervention can do more harm than good. This is especially true of the cloud.

Lastly, the former exposer of security flaws believes there is a responsible way to disclose this kind of information. Mark believes that those who find flaws should notify the vendor, wait a "reasonable" bit of time, and,  if not fixed, then let the world know if they so desire. Even then, we should understand that there consequences -- hackers will exploit this now known but unplugged hole.

What is your take on all this? Write me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 12/16/2011 at 1:18 PM


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