Microsoft's chief security officer admits the software giant has become a 'large target' for criminals and hackers, and has a special obligation to plug security holes and make its products safer. On a tour to promote Microsoft's security efforts, Howard Schmidt said the firm's dominance in the software industry meant it had to cope with an increasingly hostile computing environment. 'We have a special obligation at Microsoft, due to the size of our operation, to make sure we, along with our corporate and government partners, continue to raise the bar on security,' he said. 'One of the things we live with as a large company is that we are a large target.' Hackers and online vandals have exploited holes in software such as Explorer to deface Web sites and steal data. High-profile viruses including Love Letter and Code Red were specifically written to target vulnerabilities in Microsoft software. The Love Letter virus alone caused an estimated US$8 billion in damage. Mr Schmidt said Microsoft had been conducting more internal training with its developers to improve the security of its products and that the senior management had stressed security issues were a top priority. The company also is providing more education to customers to ensure security patches are installed when vulnerabilities are found. Mr Schmidt likened the evolution of software security to that of safety features on cars. As designers learned more about safety, they added features such as airbags and collapsible steering wheels. 'I don't think we will ever reach a state of perfection, but we want to do as good a job as possible,' he said. 'As new threats appear, we react to them, but I don't know of anyone who can see into the future to know what will be thrown at us next. We don't have 100 per cent security in the physical world, and I don't think we will ever see it in the IT world.' Mr Schmidt said Microsoft had had to make its software less user-friendly in the interests of security, as some of the features added to make applications more convenient for users were those most easily exploited. 'There are really bad guys out there that want to take advantage of these things. We have to be more cautious now about the types of features we put in,' he said.