When Microsoft finds a critical security flaw, the Microsoft Security Response Centre (MSRC) goes to war. So naturally they've got a War Room.
"We get over 150,000 emails to firstname.lastname@example.org a year," says MSRC director Mike Reavey. "A lot of that is spam. Some of that is 'My Hotmail account is locked out'. [But] out of those, about a thousand investigations result."
Critical vulnerabilities trigger the Software Security Incident Response Plan (SSIRP). Anyone with relevant knowledge is summoned to the War Room [see photo gallery, top right], physically or virtually, to work the problem around the clock.
"Anything that has a name. Blaster, Sasser, Slammer, Zotob. Anything that's an out-of-cycle release, you can assume one of these processes is occurring back at Redmond," Reavey told iTnews.
The Emergency Engineering Team War Room is unassuming.
A long conference table with power, network and A/V ports seats twenty. Six low chairs surround a coffee table. Red LED clocks show the time zones: Pacific, Mountain, Central, Eastern, London, Japan.
One monitor shows a world map with the day/night boundary shown in real time. The other four monitors show the MSRC logo. For now.
The few personal touches include signed basketball singlets from previous teams and big red button marked "easy".
There's a framed photograph of Harvey Keitel as Pulp Fiction's Winston Wolf, the fixer who remains calm in a crisis as others panic.
Next door is the Emergency Communications Team War Room, separated by a collapsible wall.
"The engineering team can focus on making sure we understand the facts. The communications team can take a complex message and make it simple," says Reavey.
Interplay between the two teams helps ensure the messages to customers aren't overly-complex but still include the important nuances.
Behind a black curtain sit the servers for what is presumably the secure network for developing and testing patches. Around twenty ordinary boxes are lined up on three white shelves, a mix of Dell, Compaq and unbranded machines.
No questions answered about them, though. And no photographs.
Stilgherrian travelled to Redmond, Washington, as a guest of Microsoft.