Microsoft Exploits Talk Dropped From RSA Agenda

An RSA Conference spokesperson told on Tuesday that the session appears to have been canceled in early January, but didn't offer a reason for the cancellation. A Microsoft spokesperson declined to comment on whether the session was canceled at Microsoft's behest.

The presentation, titled "Seven Deadliest Microsoft Attacks," was to have been led by the authors of a book by the same name that's slated for release later this month. Syngress, the book's publisher, couldn't be reached for comment, but the company offers the following synopsis of the book on its Web site:

"This book pinpoints the most dangerous hacks and exploits specific to Microsoft applications, laying out the anatomy of these attacks including how to make your system more secure. You will discover the best ways to defend against these vicious hacks with step-by-step instruction and learn techniques to make your computer and network impenetrable.

An RSA Conference guide sent to media several weeks prior to the event contained the following description for the session: "Learn about the methodology behind the deadliest attacks against Microsoft's seven most important software targets, including a deep-dive into Microsoft's Sharepoint solution, from the guys who literally wrote the book on it."

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The book's authors include Rob Kraus, senior security consultant for Solutionary, a managed security services provider in based in Omaha, Neb.; Brian Barber, a project manager and architect with the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation (CDIC); Mike Borkin, author and IT security expert; and Naomi Alpern, who's currently employed by Microsoft as a unified communications consultant.

Despite the mysterious circumstances surrounding the session cancellation, this probably isn't a repeat of the 2005 scandal at Black Hat, in which Cisco and Internet Security Systems made a pre-show deal to pull ISS researcher Mike Lynn's presentation on Cisco IOS vulnerabilities. Large vendors often attempt to squash publication of vulnerabilities, and presentations get pulled from conference agendas all the time, sometimes at the last minute.

Still, Microsoft surely wasn't thrilled to see Sharepoint, its $1 billion cash cow, featured in a presentation about security exploits. Sharepoint's popularity is viewed by some security experts as a double-edged sword because some firms have deployed it without proper security measures. In January 2009, Osterman Research surveyed 269 IT managers in charge of their companies' messaging and collaboration software and found that 40 percent were running Sharepoint without security software.

For Microsoft, which has been vilified for years over the security of Windows, this year's RSA Conference is an opportunity to assert itself as a leader in the space. On Tuesday, Scott Charney, corporate vice president of Trustworthy Computing at Microsoft, suggested that the security industry deal with the scourge of malware and botnets by quarantining infected PCs, although he didn't offer details on how this would work.

Nonetheless, Charney's suggestion was more intriguing than anything Microsoft has said at RSA in recent years, and it's as viable a solution to the problem as any security vendor is offering at this year's show.