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Security Bytes: Vista under the hackers' microscope

Microsoft will show off Vista security at the upcoming Black Hat confab. Meanwhile, RSA's stock option grants are under scrutiny and a report shows spyware on the rise.

Vista under the hackers' microscope Microsoft has great confidence in the security features of its upcoming Vista...

OS. So much confidence, in fact, that it plans to show them off in a den of hackers. At the August Black Hat confab in Las Vegas, the software giant will take to the stage and offer an entire series of sessions on its long-awaited overhaul of the Windows operating system.

It will be the first presentation Microsoft has made at the hacker-oriented gathering. Microsoft security program manager Stephen Toulouse told eWeek that the idea is to provide deeply technical presentations on Vista security to the hacking community.

"We submitted several presentations to the Black Hat event organizers and, based on the technical merit and interest to the audience, they were accepted," Toulouse told eWeek.

John Lambert, group manager in Microsoft's Security Engineering and Communications Group, will also be on hand to discuss the security engineering process behind Vista. Specifically, he will show how Vista's engineering process differs from that of Windows XP, and he'll display new features designed to blunt memory overwrite flaws.

RSA stock option grants under scrutiny
Bedford, Mass.-based RSA Security Inc. acknowledged Tuesday that it has been subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York for records from 1996 to the present related to the company's granting of stock options.

The company told the Reuters news agency it will cooperate fully with the office of the U.S. Attorney in its investigation of how RSA and other companies granted stock options. According to Reuters, the SEC and federal prosecutors in New York and California are looking at more than 40 companies to determine if they gave backdated stock options to top executives after a run-up in stock options. The majority of companies involved have to date been technology-based companies.

Last Friday RSA said it received notification of a shareholder complaint alleging violations from October 1999 to present of state and federal laws relating to stock option grant practices. The company said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that its directors intend to review the allegations before responding.

Shares in RSA dropped by 2.1% to $16.33 in Tuesday mid-day trading on the Nasdaq market.

Report shows spike in spyware
The spyware threat has grown steadily, according to a report from Chicago-based security software firm Aladdin Knowledge Systems Inc. Among the findings, which cover 2005:

  • The number of spyware threats grew from 1,083 in 2004 to 3,389 in 2005, representing a huge spike of more than 213%.
  • The number of malicious threats classified as Trojans -- a form of spyware -- grew from 1,455 in 2004 to 3,521 in 2005, representing a 142% spike.
  • The number all other malicious threats grew from 6,222 in 2004 to 9,713 in 2005, representing a 56% increase.

    The latter statistic covers email worms and file infectors defined as self-replicating/propagating malicious applications. Unlike Spyware and Trojan horses, viruses and worms have self-spreading capabilities, using email, networks, instant messengers and other programs to propagate.

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