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Re: [Full-disclosure] "responsible disclosure" explanation (an exampleof the fallacy of idealistic thought)
From: Ken Pfeil (Keninfosec101.org)
Date: Wed Aug 10 2005 - 08:35:58 CDT
These are outdated:
On page 3:
Vulnerability Disclosure Process
Internet Security Systems’ X-Force engages in active programs of
original Internet and network security research. The disclosure of
vulnerability information is provided as a public service to
vendors, Internet Security Systems’ customers and the general public.
The X-Force vulnerability disclosure process is divided into four stages:
I. Initial Discovery Phase
II. Vendor Notification Phase
III. Customer Notification Phase
IV. Public Disclosure Phase
"V." should read - Publicly bitch slap researcher and sue them off the
planet (It's possible that this could also be substituted for Step II,
III or IV depending upon the number of lawyers involved).
on page 4:
V. Accelerated Disclosure/Procedural Exceptions
X-Force reserves the right to accelerate the publication of the
vulnerability information at any time if one or more of the following
• The vendor issues a patch or announcement regarding the vulnerability.
• An in-depth discussion of the vulnerability appears on a public
• Active exploitation of any form related to the vulnerability is
observed on the Internet.
• ISS receives evidence from reliable sources that an exploit is
available in the wild.
• The vulnerability is reported by the media.
• The vendor becomes unresponsive.
The following point should be added here, and "V" changed to "VI"
• Refer to section V, above as these points are now moot. It does not
matter that reliable techniques for exploitation are already being used,
a patch is available, or the vendor becomes "unresponsive". If we're
going to get sued by an 800lb Gorilla, it's every man for himself.
Ingevaldson, Dan (ISS Atlanta) wrote:
> Just in case anyone is interested, the ISS Vulnerability Disclosure
> Guidelines were made public a couple years ago, and last revised on July
> 15, 2004. The document is available here:
> Daniel Ingevaldson
> Director, X-Force PSS
> Internet Security Systems, Inc.
> Ahead of the Threat
> -----Original Message-----
> From: full-disclosure-bounceslists.grok.org.uk
> [mailto:full-disclosure-bounceslists.grok.org.uk] On Behalf Of Matthew
> Sent: Tuesday, August 09, 2005 2:43 AM
> To: full-disclosurelists.grok.org.uk
> Subject: Re: [Full-disclosure] "responsible disclosure" explanation (an
> exampleof the fallacy of idealistic thought)
> Let me just define "responsible disclosure" first of all, so as to
> dissociate myself from the lunatic lawyers of certain corporations
> (Cisco, HP, ISS, et al) who define "responsible disclosure" as
> "non-disclosure". The generally accepted definition of responsible
> disclosure is simply allowing vendors advance notification to fix
> vulnerabilities in their products before information describing such
> vulnerabilities is released. The overwhelming majority of researchers
> put a ceiling on what they consider "responsible" timelines on a
> vendor's part, but these vary widely.
> Jason Coombs wrote:
>>"responsible disclosure" causes serious harm to people. It is no
>>different than being an accessory to the intentional destruction of
> You seriously overstate the facts here, as a minute number of software
> vulnerabilities pose any threat to human life. In the cases where a
> software flaw could potentially be responsible for the loss of an
> innocent life, the greatest error is still one in human judgment.
>>Anyone who believes that "responsible disclosure" is a good thing
>>needs to volunteer their time to teach law enforcement, judges,
>>prosecutors, and attorneys that the consequence of everyone
>>communicating with everyone else online is that some people use secret
>>knowledge of security vulnerabilities to ruin other people's lives or
>>commit crimes by hijacking innocent persons' vulnerable computers.
> You manage to draw absolutely no parallel between these two, so I'll try
> and draw one for you. Limiting knowledge of vulnerabilities to any
> select group (no matter who they are) is a bad idea, because it
> necessarily renders the uninformed incapable of self-protection.
> In reality, this theory is denied by historical evidence, and stands
> directly opposed to virtually all actions of modern law enforcement.
> I'll even use the analogy of a person moving illegal material (we can
> even say child porn, for simplicity's sake) to show you why your theory
> of disclosure is irreparably flawed. Say I discover a weakness in the
> security measures of an airline, that allows me access to passenger
> luggage after it has been screened. Clearly, the implications include a
> direct threat to human life: the scenario of explosives hidden in
> checked baggage is a very real threat.
> Do I announce over the public address system that an airline's screening
> procedures are weak and easily defeated, and reveal the exact steps
> necessary to do so? Of course not! It's an engraved invitation to
> every terrorist on the planet to exploit said weakness. You inform the
> people responsible for the fault that caused the issue in question (an
> airline supervisor, for instance) and they fix it. Should they fail,
> you inform the public, and counter-measures are taken based on that
> airlines delinquency. This may include flight prohibitions on the
> airline, for example.
> In this scenario, much as a software vulnerability, two factors are
> consistent. The threat (the malicious individual seeking to move things
> illegally or harm life or property) is fixed, as is the vulnerability
> (the weakness that allows that individual access). The only component
> of the puzzle that is not static is the actual risk of the threat
> becoming reality (exploitation of the vulnerability).
> In the researcher's case, it is necessary to balance the potential
> increase in threat posed by the possibility that malicious individuals
> may be aware of the vulnerability already and planning to exploit it,
> with the actual increase in threat posed by informing said malicious
> individuals intentionally in the guise of "public safety". Fact is, in
> the current environment, the risk of exploitation is significantly
> increased by general knowledge of a flaw. Before your ideal can become
> a reality, we need several improvements.
> 1. Reach: Security information must reach an overwhelming majority of
> the product's user base, presumably all of the users affected by a given
> product flaw.
> 2. Timeliness: The speed at which protection must reach the user base
> needs to be improved.
> 3. Effectiveness: Software, systems, and processes must be designed in
> such a way as to make immediate delivery of vulnerability information
> 100% actionable. Side effects must be significantly reduced (and
> eventually eliminated) to ensure that deploying interim protection is
> practical, as well as possible.
> Process and standardization are instruments that benefit consistency,
> clarity, and quality of information, sometimes at the expense of speed.
> Add to that the fact that public safety initiatives in any industry are
> almost always handicapped (or even crippled) by the neo-socialist
> regulatory frameworks for security issues in most Western nations that
> attempt to strip almost all flexibility away from any security issue.
> To avoid this problem would mean the annihilation of most of the theory
> behind Western law, which tears a page out of the socialist playbook
> with its theory that the government has an obligation to protect the
> individual, and that (in most cases) the individual has no obligation
> (or even right, in some cases) to protect himself or herself from harm.
>>So you tell me, those of you who believe that "responsible disclosure"
>>is a good thing, how can you justify holding back any detail of the
>>security vulnerabilities that are being used against innocent victims,
>>when the court system that you refuse to learn anything about is
>>systematically chewing up and spitting out innocent people who are
>>accused of crimes solely because the prosecution, the judge, the
>>forensic examiners, investigators, and countless "computer people"
>>think it is unrealistic for a third-party to have been responsible for
>>the actions that a defendant's computer hard drive clearly convicts
> Given your particular example, I feel not a bit of guilt. It's obvious
> that the legal system isn't an effective instrument in dealing with
> high-tech crimes, as it stands. But the solution to incompetent experts
> is to hire competent experts, not offer "experts" more information when
> they can't grasp what's in front of them today.
>>You cannot withhold the details of security vulnerabilities or you
>>guarantee that victims of those vulnerabilities will suffer far worse
>>than the minor inconvenience that a few companies encounter when they
>>have no choice but to pull the plug on their computer network for the
>>day in order to patch vulnerabilities that they could otherwise ignore
>>for a while longer.
> The point you miss is that by withholding vulnerability details, I
> guarantee nothing, other than that those details are less widely known.
> I agree that patch processes should be more expeditious, but the
> solution to that dilemma is not to force companies to sacrifice quality
> by creating an imminent risk that did not otherwise exist.
>>"Responsible disclosure" is malicious. Plain and simple, it is wrong.
>>"Responsible disclosure" ensures that ignorance persists, and there is
>>no doubt whatsoever that ignorance is the enemy.
> Given that full disclosure really *does* guarantee that exploit details
> are more likely to be acted upon by malicious parties, I'll run the risk
> of ignorance persisting for the matter of weeks that I allow most
> vendors to produce a patch. We're not talking about waiting for hell to
> freeze or the vendor to patch, and choosing whichever comes first.
> We're talking about giving the vendor the opportunity to offer users
> more options to protect themselves... typically in the form of a
> software update or something similar.
>>Therefore, supporters of "responsible disclosure" are the source of
>>the enemy and you must be destroyed. Hopefully some patriotic hacker
>>will break into your computers and plant evidence that proves you are
>>guilty of some horrific crime against children. Then you will see how
>>nice it is that all those "responsible" people kept hidden the details
>>that you needed to prevent your own conviction on the charges brought
>>against you by the prosecution.
>>How can "responsible" people be so maliciously stupid and ignorant?
> So far, I see nothing, other than your radicalism in attempting to link
> them, that ties vulnerability disclosure to the example you provide. Do
> I need to know the exact technical details of a vulnerability in order
> to know that my system has been compromised? Of course not, or you'd
> never *hear* reports of "in-the-wild" exploits being caught and
>>Please, somebody tell me that I'm not the only one inviting judges to
>>phone me at 2am so that I can teach them a little about why a Windows
>>2000 computer connected to broadband Internet and powered-on 24/7
>>while a member of the armed forces is at work defending the nation
>>could in fact have easily been compromised by an intruder and used to
>>swap warez, pirated films and music, and kiddie porn without the
>>service member's knowledge.
>>How can trained "computer forensics" professionals from the DCFL and
>>private industry author reports that fail to explain information
>>security? The answer is that the people who teach computer forensics
>>don't understand information security. It is not "responsible" to
>>suppress knowledge of security vulnerabilities that impact ordinary
>>people. Suppress security vulnerability knowledge that impacts only
>>military computer systems, but don't suppress security vulnerability
>>knowledge that impacts computer systems owned and operated by ordinary
>>people; for doing so ruins lives and you, the suppressing agent, are
>>to blame for it moreso than anyone else.
> These last two points tie perfectly into my previous statement on the
> subject. It's obvious that most legal experts don't have a clue, and
> aren't learning from the information that is already available. So why
> do I have any obligation to give them more for them to ignore? Of
> course, I don't have any.
> And last, one point that everyone misses in this battle of full vs.
> responsible disclosure. Most people define full disclosure as (or at
> least include in its definition) the revelation of all available
> technical detail on a vulnerability, or at least the level of detail
> required to reliably reproduce the issue. You include in this, by
> virtue of your exclusion of responsible disclosure practices and broad
> claims to the "right to know", any limited disclosure. You also, by way
> of your right to know claims, require that the researcher make effort to
> inform all affected users.
> So, by your standard of full disclosure, we have a policy of revealing
> vulnerabilities that is:
> a) immediate
> b) provides complete detail
> c) all-encompassing
> Now... provide me a forum that *actually* meets this standard.
> Look very carefully at that last requirement. There is no forum, in
> today's world, that can effectively reach all users that may be affected
> by a vulnerability. Even if you believe it to be an obligation of the
> public to seek information regarding vulnerabilities, you must
> acknowledge that the hodge podge of sources for security information
> (many of which have conflicting mandates and objectives) is today, one
> of the largest roadblocks to effective vulnerability management.
> In acknowledging this, you realize that today, "full disclosure" creates
> an absence of conscience, furthered by the ignorant belief that users
> will, magically, all be aware of the vulnerability. Essentially, that
> concept of disclosure alters the informed community from a community of
> individuals most suited to remedy the vulnerability in question to a
> community of individuals most devoted to scouring the numerous
> poorly-documented, badly-marketed and incomplete sources of
> vulnerability information that is "publicly available".
> Perhaps the subject tags on this mailing list would be more accurate if,
> instead of:
> they read:
> I know I'll probably take more than a few flames for this, but idealism
> in solving problems is never effective. For the very root of idealism
> is a world free of challenge... an environment that will never be
> realistic in my lifetime.
> Matthew Murphy
> Full-Disclosure - We believe in it.
> Charter: http://lists.grok.org.uk/full-disclosure-charter.html
> Hosted and sponsored by Secunia - http://secunia.com/
Full-Disclosure - We believe in it.
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