By T.C. Doyle, VARBusiness

Ask Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer whether some hackers contribute to the IT industry, and you'll get an emphatic, 'No!'"

"Hackers are criminals," Ballmer says, plain and simple. And they don't innovate, either, he adds. "Hackers are people who are causing hundreds of millions and billions of dollars in damage," he says. "And they're not showing that they are not all that smart and creative and clever."

In an exclusive interview conducted by VARBusiness in conjunction with sister publication CRN, Ballmer made it absolutely clear where his company--arguably the biggest target for cybercrime the world over--stands when it comes to hacking, be it malicious code-authoring or what some consider to be ethical programming. Ballmer likens these individuals to criminals who blow up buildings and says the monetary damage is worse. And he takes umbrage with the notion that some are ethical and help to create new innovations for the market by pushing IT to its limits. Most, he notes, release their malicious code after patches for Microsoft software have been released, meaning that they are simply reverse engineering to exploit security weaknesses or holes in software.

Ballmer was responding to a question posed to him by the editors of VARBusiness, which collected a wealth of queries by its readers. In fact, the entire interview consisted of actual reader questions submitted by partners like you. In an upcoming issue, VARBusiness will publish the entire transcript of the question-and-answer session, which covered a variety of topics ranging from the inequity between what Microsoft gets for sales and its partners receive, how the software giant will combat Linux and other lower-cost alternatives, and how Microsoft defines opportunities in the SMB market. No topic, however, raised Ballmer's level of passion quite like the issue of security, which he conceded has forced his company to respond in new ways.

"There's no way to way to look these people as anything other than what they are: malicious people who are violating the law," Ballmer said. Their work, of course, is causing Microsoft significant grief.

"We're really going to have to ratchet up our game in terms of working with our customers and our partners to work with our customers around security," he said. He added that the company is planning a significant announcement around security specifically to address the ongoing problem associated with malicious attacks on Microsoft systems and networks. Ballmer hinted that there will be a new set of ways Microsoft educates its customers on security and puts partners in position to help customers with theirs. "That is job one on a day-to-day on my radar," he said.

This article appears courtesy of CRN, the newspaper for builders of technology solutions.

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