Hacked Opinions: Vulnerability disclosure – Chuck Bloomquist

InteliSecure's Chuck Bloomquist 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?

Chuck Bloomquist, co-founder and CTO, InteliSecure (CB):

Somewhere in the middle. Context and magnitude of the vulnerability will determine the appropriate response. Responsible disclosure makes sense in the case of smaller developers with a limited customer base.

It gives the developer, who may have limited resources, the time to develop and test the remedy and coordinate a roll out to the affected base before announcing the risk to the public.

In the case of widely used applications, full disclosure makes sense to allow affected users the ability to respond and apply immediate countermeasures to mitigate risk while a solution is being developed.

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?

CB: The Information Security industry's goal should be the development of a collaborative environment where information is released responsibly with the goal of minimizing risk while remediation takes place.

If the context, severity and magnitude achieve a critical threshold, and the developers as well as other organizations fail to report based on their published policy, then the researcher has the duty to fully disclose. The intent should be to surface a hidden risk and steer a course to remediation.

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?

CB: Bug Bounties now exist and researchers have entered the marketplace. The market will determine the value placed on the time and energy invested in the research.

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

CB: Our goal should be to raise awareness of risk in the ecosystem and provide guidance on how to efficiently mitigate that risk.

PR and marketing can achieve this goal effectively. However, the message must be clearly mapped to the level of risk, severity and potential impact. If not, the marketplace will become numb to the messaging and the program will lose its effectiveness.

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?

CB: Initially, Wassenaar will likely have some disruptive effect on the disclosure process as there is a lack of clarity on what can be used for research.

There also is ambiguity around POC Code and an overly broad definition of IDS software and IP network surveillance systems; it needs refinement and a clearer definition.

Wassenaar is unlikely to kill the full disclosure concept. The intrusion software clause intends to apply to weaponized exploits and not production systems used to identify threats on a network.

There is no enforcement arm within the Arrangement, but it may provide a prosecutorial tool to the participating states once a violation has been detected. The Arrangement will likely have little impact on the volume of disclosure.

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