The discovery of the massively complex Flame malware is a currently a hot topic across the security industry, with pretty much every vendor and expert we've talked to remaining stumped about how they can combat such a threat.
However, building on its bold anti-botnet strategy, during our Trustworthy Computing tour in Seattle, Microsoft issued its own theory about how the industry should react to Flame.
The burning Flame problem
Opening up the debate Microsoft corporate vice president Scott Charney clarified the massive threat Flame poses, warning that even if the malware is a surveillance tool designed to target a very select number of targets, it will still affect private businesses.
"You see a lot of cyber espionage at the moment: Stuxnet, Duqu, Flame," said Charney. "It's hard to tease apart military and civilian. In the real world it's easy to separate, but on the internet it's more difficult. Who's attacking and why are two things you don't know online."
While there will be a number of people who see Charney's warnings as little more than fear mongering - a security vendor saying people need security - the fact is he isn't the first expert to highlight Flame as a massive game changer.
Earlier in June F-Secure security chief Mikko Hypponen issued a similar warning during a press conference in Helsinki. In it Hypponen went so far as to describe Flame as the James Bond of cyber attacks claiming that while it doesn't go after everyone, it gets the people it wants to and is next to impossible to defend against.
Addressing Flame's ability to mimic Microsoft's update signature senior director Mike Reavey, mirrored Hypponen's sentiment bluntly stating:
"Threats are getting more sophisticated and complicated and we need to change and adapt [...] We can't stop these things by ourselves. We need a community of defenders."
Moving on Reavey stated that the company is looking to expand its Community Based Defence strategy. The initiative already has 70 different companies working within it including big name security companies like F-Secure and Trend Micro.
While it's unlikely that even the most seasoned team of security companies can do much to stop a threat like Flame, we're glad to see that Microsoft's mirroring the "community of good guys" sentiment we saw earlier in Helsinki with F-Secure.
Looking to the future
Overall we were pretty impressed by Microsoft Trustworthy Computing's security strategy. What will be interesting in the future is how the company reacts and changes its approach to advanced threats like Flame. While Microsoft has already release patch updates to fix the problem, it has remained tight lipped about its investigation.
"We're still in the early stages of investigating Flame, the incident only happened a few weeks ago and our prime aim is to protect our customers," said Reavey. "But we're not done we're taking actions for Windows update."
We're really curious to see what these measures are and whether when combined with the company's collaborative strategy they will be able to win back companies' trust.
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