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Adobe joins Microsoft's patch-reporting programme

Joined-up approach to tackle hackers

Adobe and Microsoft are now working together to give security companies a direct line into their bug-fixing efforts.

By year's end, Adobe will start using the Microsoft Active Protections Program (MAPP) to share details on its latest patches, according to Brad Arkin, Adobe's director of product security and privacy. "The MAPP programme is the gold standard for how the software vendors should be sharing information about product vulnerabilities prior to shipping security updates," he said.

Adobe initially wanted to reproduce MAPP, but soon realised that it would take a lot of work to build a programme similar to Microsoft's, which was piloted two years ago. Arkin's team began discussions with Microsoft, at first in hopes of picking up some tips. "Eventually, together, we came to the conclusion that it would be a lot more fun to work together on this rather than Microsoft helping us to reinvent the wheel," he said.

Typically, whenever a major patch is released, hackers quickly begin to analyse the patch to see what flaws were fixed. They then rush to work out attacks that would exploit the vulnerability on unpatched products.

Adobe has been hit hard in the past two years by hackers who have found bug after bug in the company's products. This often means hard work for security companies, who must scramble to add detection for these attacks.

It's become so bad that one security company, SourceFire, is holding an exclusive Adobe Hater's Ball on Wednesday here at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas.

The Ball is really a tongue-in-cheek joke, modelled on comedian Dave Chappelle's Playa Hater's Ball.

"My guys have a love-hate relationship with the guys over at Adobe," said SourceFire Director Matt Watchinski. "Every time a vulnerability comes out of their stuff, we have to jump."

Arkin said he and other Adobe researchers will be at the event.

With Adobe jointing the MAPP programme, however, security companies like SourceFire should do less scrambling.

MAPP gives them early notice on upcoming patches - typically about 48 hours - so they have more time to build attack detection into their security systems. About 65 security companies participate in MAPP. All of them will soon start getting the Adobe data.

This is the first time that Microsoft has extended the MAPP programme to cover another company's products, said Dave Forstrom, a director with Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing group.

However, it may not be the last. Forstrom didn't rule out the possibility that other software vendors could also jump on board.

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