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Microsoft's Newest Virus Fighter: Cash

November 06, 2003|Joseph Menn | Times Staff Writer

Microsoft Corp. hasn't figured out how to write software invulnerable to Internet worms and viruses. But it knows a thing or two about public relations -- and quite a lot about the power of money.

On Wednesday, the company offered $250,000 bounties for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those behind two rogue programs that hit millions of computers this summer.

"What we hope to accomplish is to give people an incentive to do the right thing," said Microsoft Senior Security Strategist Philip Reitinger.

The initial targets are the distributors of the Blaster worm and the SoBig virus. Together, they are blamed for $2 billion in losses by businesses and consumers, according to consulting firm Computer Economics Inc. More bounties may be forthcoming; Microsoft put $5 million into its new Anti-Virus Reward Program.

Executives at Microsoft declared customer security a top priority in 2000, and they acknowledge that they have a ways to go. In the most recent quarter, Microsoft said security concerns cut into sales.

Security experts are split on whether the rewards will yield results. But with a daily profit of $27 million, Microsoft can afford a bounty or two.

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