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Home » Hacking News » Microsoft’s hunt

Microsoft’s hunt

by Nikola Strahija on May 19th, 2005 Researchers at Microsoft are creating a system which will crawl through the internet looking for threats in an effort to secure the web for Windows.

A net of virtual Windows XP computers with monitoring software will search high-risk areas of the web looking for trouble. The research could give the software giant a heads up when a vulnerability is not reported to its security response team, but instead used by Internet crime groups to spread spyware or used as part of a web worm.

The machines will be able to test 7 000 sites a day, their first goal will be to check that no spyware has infected popular sites, by visiting one million most popular legitimate links.

The research is part of Microsoft's continuing effort to cut down the number of vulnerabilities in Windows XP. The software giant has already added a host of security measures to the consumer operating system with its August security update, Service Pack 2. This month, Microsoft also announced that it would provide interim guidance on security threats to its users in the form of security advisories. In addition, the company has made several attempts to reach out to vulnerability researchers to limit the release of flaw information before its product groups have had to a chance to fix security problems.

So far, MS has set up half-a-dozen computers running various patch levels of Microsoft's consumer operating system, Windows XP, within virtual machines. Soon, the research group will have about three dozen machines running the software. The computers run an application known as Strider which looks out for registry and other configuration changes as a way to detect surreptitious installations of malicious programs.
The tactics has become a staple of some anti-spyware firms as well. Webroot Software, for example, uses computers to scan web pages on the internet, looking for those sites that automatically try to install spyware applications. While Microsoft seeks to find sites that exploit previously unknown flaws, Webroot instead seeks previously unknown spyware, even if it requires users interaction to be installed.

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