Microsoft gets kudos for MAPP threat sharing overhaul

Microsoft's overhaul of its program for sharing information with antivirus vendors is expected to help improve the quality of protection against cyberthreats.

Changes to the Microsoft Active Protections Program were unveiled Monday, marking a significant expansion in the program.

Rather than focus only on vulnerabilities on Microsoft products, the software maker will also now share information on the behavior of malware in infected systems to assist government and private organizations in detecting and removing malicious code.

Overall, the MAPP overhaul was seen as a win for participants in the program, which first debuted in 2008. Antivirus vendors contacted on Tuesday particularly liked the additional time Microsoft is giving them to update their software to protect against attacks on newly found vulnerabilities in Microsoft products.

Under the old program, vendors were given vulnerability data the day before its release on the second Tuesday of every month, called Patch Tuesday. The new rules direct Microsoft to release the information three business days before, which will give antivirus companies five days, including the weekend, to update the detection capabilities of their products.

Chester Wisniewski, a senior security adviser for Sophos, said it was "a bit of a mad rush" to get the work done in one day. "We can release higher quality protection, if we have more time to look at this stuff," he said.

Microsoft has expanded MAPP to provide attack intelligence, such as malicious URLs and file hashes, to private organizations and government entities, such as computer emergency response teams, or CERTS.

[Also see: Volunteering falls short on threat information sharing]

Adding more organizations to the MAPP program will increase the chance of having the information leaked. However, the benefits of sharing data that can lead to organizations taking faster protective measures far outweighs the risk, said Wolfgang Kandek, chief technology officer for Qualys.

"It's a great initiative," he said. "It's excellent that Microsoft is making that move."

In general, attack data is not very sensitive, and "it's a great tool for detecting infection," Kandek said.

For sometime, Google, Microsoft and other large Internet companies have been increasingly sharing more information gathered on cyberthreats. The U.S. government is also opening up its databases of threat intelligence.

In February, President Barack Obama issued an executive order directing government agencies to share non-classified information with the private sector.

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