Hacked Opinions: Vulnerability disclosure – Geoff Sanders

LaunchKey's Geoff Sanders talks about disclosure, bounty programs, and vulnerability marketing with CSO, in the first of a series of topical discussions with industry leaders and experts.

Hacked Opinions is an ongoing series of Q&As with industry leaders and experts on a number of topics that impact the security community. The first set of discussions focus on disclosure and how pending regulation could impact it. In addition, we asked about marketed vulnerabilities such as Heartbleed and bounty programs, do they make sense?

CSO encourages everyone to take part in the Hacked Opinions series. If you would like to participate, email Steve Ragan with your answers to the questions presented in this Q&A, or feel free to suggest topics for future consideration.

Where do you stand: Full Disclosure, Responsible Disclosure, or somewhere in the middle?

Geoff Sanders (GS), Co-Founder and CEO of LaunchKey:I believe a responsible disclosure policy which allows for full disclosure of a vulnerability, following a brief period to allow patches to be deployed and affected users to be notified, strikes the right balance of the need to fix the problem, inform the public of the risks, and reduce further exploitation, so long as policy owners address disclosures promptly and with urgency.

If a researcher chooses to follow responsible / coordinated disclosure and the vendor goes silent -- or CERT stops responding to them -- is Full Disclosure proper at this point? If not, why not?

GS: Absolutely. The 'responsible' part of responsible disclosure applies as much to the vendor as it does to the researcher. Responsible vendors are prompt and maintain an open dialogue with researchers. If a vendor or CERT goes silent, a researcher has no choice but to assume the vendor isn't addressing the issue at which point it becomes the ethical responsibility of the researcher to fully disclose the vulnerability.

Bug Bounty programs are becoming more common, but sometimes the reward being offered is far less than the perceived value of the bug / exploit. What do you think can be done to make it worth the researcher's time and effort to work with a vendor directly?

GS: I think most security researchers simply want a financial bounty that respects the amount of work they've put into finding the bug, and one that's appropriate for the size of the vendor paying the bounty.Large vendors should offer rewards that at minimum reflect the cost of contracting similar professional services in the market, while researchers should respect that startups and small vendors will have proportionately less capital to reward.

Do you think vulnerability disclosures with a clear marketing campaign and PR process, such as Heartbleed, POODLE, or Shellshock, have value?

GS: I don't think every vulnerability needs a cool name and logo, but I think it can definitely help with the more significant vulnerabilities that demand greater attention from the public. Being that the general public isn't a technical audience, it makes sense to market these bugs in friendly and memorable terms for the same reason we refer to Rhinopharyngitis as the common cold.

If the proposed changes pass, how do you think Wassenaar will impact the disclosure process? Will it kill full disclosure with proof-of-concept code, or move researchers away from the public entirely preventing serious issues from seeing the light of day? Or, perhaps, could it see a boom in responsible disclosure out of fear of being on the wrong side of the law?

GS: Security researchers rely on the ability to recreate vulnerabilities to both discover bugs and build defenses against them.The proposed changes to the Wassenaar Agreement add vague language which opens up researchers to the potential for prosecution. Such an approach will only serve to dissuade participation from the security research community and limit collaboration between researchers which is paramount to finding and fixing critical vulnerabilities in a timely manner.At the end of the day, sharing and disseminating vulnerabilities and malware will still be a trivial endeavor, and the bad actors this approach is supposed to impair will merely find vulnerabilities that remain unpatched for longer periods of times that allow greater exploitation.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Hacked Opinionssecurity industrysecurityCSO

More about CSOQ

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Steve Ragan

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place