Microsoft is hosting an unusual summit of security experts to discuss the growing malevolence of botnets, zero-day exploits and rootkits.

Scheduled to be held on its campus on 24 and 25 January behind closed doors, the meeting will outline intelligence gathered by the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC) on trends in malware and its distribution channels.

The main topic of discussion will be the increasingly integrated nature of security threats that include botnet-directed spam, infection through software vulnerabilities including zero-day holes, and hard-to-detect rootkits and Trojans.

All attendees, including those from rivals companies, have been invited by name, but present a good cross-section of security expertise. Beyond Security has reported that those in attendance will include Alex Shipp of MessageLabs, Arbor Network’s Joe Nazario, Dave Jevans of the anti-phishing working group (APWG) and the head of US-CERT, Jerry Dixon.

With these and other notable industry figures sharing figures on malware trends, the event promises to turn into the sort of statistics-fest usually reserved for commercial security shows with a high profile. "[Microsoft] is proud to sponsor the workshop, which provides an opportunity for the security operations community to discuss security trends, share information and plan for the future," a company spokesperson said.

Microsoft fears the sophistication and growing prevalence of botnets with good reason. Last October, its own figures suggested that half of the four million malware-infected PCs detected during the first half of 2006 by Microsoft were under the control of botnets of one kind or another.

Earlier in the year, the company released its malicious software removal tool (MSRT) as the first step in its attempt to fight back against a phenomenon that now plagues its consumer operating system customers.