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Originally published January 18, 2015 at 8:18 AM | Page modified January 18, 2015 at 8:27 AM

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Google riles Microsoft with bug revelation

Puget Sound business and government officials roll out plans to attract more foreign direct investment from sources new and old. Also, Microsoft and Google have a tiff over revealing software bugs.

By Seattle Times business staff


The rivalry between Microsoft and Google has spread to the realm of software bugs.

For the second time in a few weeks, Google security researchers posted details about a Windows security flaw before Microsoft fixed the bug. Microsoft didn’t publicly reply to Google after the first case.

But after Google detailed another security vulnerability last Sunday, two days before Microsoft’s release of its regular slate of software fixes, a Microsoft official accused the Mountain View, Calif., company of trying to embarrass Microsoft rather than protect customers.

Google’s “Project Zero,” its security unit dedicated to finding and exposing bugs, last Sunday revealed a Windows 8.1 security flaw that can allow low-level users of a network to gain administrator privileges and access sensitive functions.

Google says it follows a formula with its security efforts.

Once researchers discover a flaw, they alert the company whose software is involved, and give them 90 days to fix the error before Google makes the bug public (along with code that could allow people to exploit it).

In this case, Google alerted Microsoft to the problem on Oct. 13. Microsoft, Google says, replied that it was on track to fix the problem by February. Google said its 90-day deadline wasn’t negotiable.

Part of why Microsoft bristled at this release: The company told Google it was now planning to fix the flaw as part of its regular “patch Tuesday” slate of software updates, said Chris Betz, senior director of Microsoft’s Security Response Center, in a blog post. Google didn’t budge.

“Although following through keeps to Google’s announced timeline for disclosure, the decision feels less like principles and more like a ‘gotcha,’ with customers the ones who may suffer as a result,” Betz said. “What’s right for Google is not always right for customers. We urge Google to make protection of customers our collective primary goal.”

Google’s supporters argue that setting firm deadlines helps spur action by companies like Microsoft, particularly when flaws are live and potentially already exploited by folks with bad intentions. There’s a lengthy debate about the policy on Google’s December post revealing the earlier Windows flaw.

Google, which didn’t respond to requests for comment, is not without its own recent security issues.

A researcher looking into a bug in an older version of the company’s popular Android operating system was told that the company would not be patching the flaw. Unless manufacturers or security experts act themselves to tweak the open-source software, that leaves about 1 billion Android phones vulnerable.

— Matt Day:

Push for foreign investment

While the Puget Sound region produces and exports some of the world’s best-known products, and its Pacific Rim location has long been cited as an economic asset, it’s also known for not doing as well as one would expect in attracting foreign direct investments.

A plan launched Thursday by regional civic and business leaders aims to change that.

The plan seeks, over the next five years, to increase foreign direct investment in research-and-development and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) industries.

It also aims to increase by 25 percent the number of foreign firms investing in the region from countries that have traditionally invested here (including Canada, Japan, Germany, England and France), as well as increase by 25 percent the number of foreign firms investing in the area from new markets, including China, Korea, India and the United Arab Emirates.

The plan, announced at the annual Economic Forecast Conference of the Economic Development Council of Seattle and King County, also seeks to increase the number of local companies — especially small and midsized ones — that export their products.

Leaders in the Puget Sound area have had similar intentions in the past.

But regional leaders said Thursday that what’s different this time is that the plan includes broader collaboration between civic and business leaders, and measurable goals with specific strategies to reach them.

Such strategies include converting export partners into investors, helping small and midsized businesses find more capital and export opportunities, developing international students and tourists as potential future investors, and leveraging the area’s ties to China.

Indeed, Gov. Jay Inslee said at the conference that the state, in partnership with the Washington State China Relations Council and the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle, plans to open an office in China.

The office, likely to be either in Shenzhen or Guangzhou, is being established to have a continual presence to ensure Washington state gets some of the money Chinese investors place globally. He declined to say how many staff will work there.

The city of Seattle, meanwhile, has created a new position to focus specifically on international-business development, including attracting more foreign direct investment. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray hopes to have the position, which pays a total compensation including benefits of about $148,000, filled sometime this winter, according to the mayor’s spokesman.

— Janet I. Tu:

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