IBM's ISS blasts security rival Trend Micro over bugs

A security company owned by IBM is publicly blasting rival Trend Micro

In an unusual move, a security company owned by IBM has publicly blasted a rival for not patching reported bugs in its enterprise-grade, server-side antivirus software.

On Monday, David Dewey, a researcher with IBM's Internet Security Systems, explained why his company had released several advisories that covered multiple vulnerabilities in Trend Micro's ServerProtect software, even though according to IBM, Trend has not fixed the flaws.

X-Force, the research arm of IBM's security group, reported the first bugs to Trend two years ago, said Dewey, and followed up with additional vulnerability reports through January 2008. But Trend's response was unsatisfactory. "Each time, Trend would assure us that fixes would be provided in the next scheduled patch," he said in a post to the X-Force blog. "We have worked with them through four security patches, and in all cases, the reported vulnerabilities were ignored or the solution they implemented was inadequate."

One fix Trend released, Dewey said, was "easily evaded in a matter of minutes after installation of the patch."

When X-Force got nowhere by working with Trend Micro directly, it instead tried to coordinate with its competitor through CERT/CC (Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Center) and JPCERT, Japan's CERT group. Trend Micro is headquartered in Tokyo.

Even that, however, didn't work, Dewey claimed. "They responded to each of those organizations the same way they did to us, which was to dismiss true problem resolution and try to indicate their workarounds were sufficient to consider the issues addressed," he said.

X-Force essentially tossed in the towel. "It is apparent that we have reached a crossroads with Trend," Dewey said, "where they are unable or unwilling to sufficiently patch these eight critical vulnerabilities reported by X-Force. At this point, I feel it is important to let our customers know about the inherent and abundant security risks of running TrendMicro ServerProtect."

Tuesday, the company posted four advisories that sketched out only the vaguest details about the eight vulnerabilities X-Force says it has found in ServerProtect, an antivirus program that runs on Windows, Linux and Netware. Unlike traditional advisories, which are usually issued only after a patch is available, X-Force's omitted the kind of technical details that might give hackers clues on finding and exploiting the bugs.

A security researcher and an industry analyst both said X-Force's public chastising of Trend is unusual.

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