Black Hat : Got2 Luv the H8ers

bh2008news So, this afternoon, I’m in the Microsoft booth at Black Hat when this guy comes up (badge hidden of course) and starts talking to some of my colleagues.  Right away, it was pretty obvious that he was antagonistic.  I will refer to him as “h8er” from here on out.  Though I am paraphrasing a bit, this is based upon a true story.  It gave me a chuckle, so I thought I’d share.

h8er:  So, how does it feel to work for a company that has made so many bad security decisions.

MSFT guy:  Well, I feel lucky to be in a position to try and influence good security decisions going forward – are there any specifics you want to give me feedback on?

h8er:  All those prompts irritating people, for example.

MSFT guy:  Oh, so you don’t like that aspect of UAC.  We’ve gotten a lot of feedback on that, but the UAC security changes in Windows Vista encompass a pretty wide range of options designed to make it easier for most users to run as non-admin.  Plus, we’ve incorporated some of the feedback into SP1 and I think it is a lot better.  Have you tried SP1?

h8er:  <crickets chirping in the silence>

MSFT guy: (still trying) Let me ask it a different way.  A lot of folks have said that after the first few weeks, the UAC prompts tapered off, have you not found that to be the case?

h8er:  <crickets chirping in the silence>

MSFT guy: What about some of the other changes in Windows Vista – I think the addition of ASLR, for example, was a good decision and raises the bars for attackers developing exploits.

non-MSFT guys standing nearby:  He has probably never even tried Vista – I bet you run Linux and just heard the prompt stuff second hand.cultofmac

h8er:  I don’t run Linux … I run a Mac!

(NOTE: This seemed to rattle him, so he went on the offensive.)

h8er:  Don’t you feel embarrassed working for Microsoft knowing that 40% of your customers are infected with Malware?

MSFT guy:  Actually, based upon research in the latest Security Intelligence Report, less than 1% of machines have malware and need corrective action – plus, recent research in the same report has shown that most of that is on older platforms and Windows Vista has an even lower incidence.  40% is a pretty high number, what source did you hear that from?

h8er:  <crickets chirping in the silence>

(NOTE:  Need a new tack, better try something different.)

h8er:  Well, I feel a lot safer running my Mac and knowing the malware writers aren’t targeting me.

MSFT guy:  Oh, threat landscape is a different topic than the security of the software, but I can’t really agree anyway.  Many of the folks I talk to are more concerned about spearphishing or targeted attacks specifically against their valuable data.  Recent data shows that Mac OS X has quite a higher incidence of security vulnerabilities that other comparable systems.  That means that if an attacker did target them, he’d have a lot more options to choose from.  In that case, I feel much more comfortable using or recommending Windows Vista than I would using your Mac.

He left shortly after that, but not before giving the Microsoft guy an invite to his company’s party – I won’t tell you which company it was, but it makes the story even funnier.  To cap it, a few minutes later, one of the bystanders came by and said “so, did the Mac fanboy get tired of harrassing you and leave?”

Having lots of fun at Black Hat 2008 ~ Jeff

About the Author
Jeff Jones

Principal Cybersecurity Strategist

Jeff Jones a 27-year security industry professional that has spent the last decade at Microsoft working with enterprise CSOs and Microsoft's internal teams to drive practical and measurable security improvements into Microsoft products and services. Additionally, Jeff analyzes vulnerability trends Read more »