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Senior Staff Writer

Hacked Opinions: Vulnerability disclosure – Tom Gorup

Jun 29, 20154 mins
IT LeadershipTechnology IndustryVulnerabilities

Rook Security's Tom Gorup talks about disclosure, bounty programs, and vulnerability marketing

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Rook Security’s Tom Gorup 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?

Tom Gorup (TG), Security Operations Manager, Rook Security: Responsible Disclosure. I believe developers are going to make mistakes and in some cases the functions they have imported are the issue, not necessarily the code itself. Developers/companies need an opportunity to resolve this issue prior to release. However, there should be a deadline applied to this solution. Just because it hasn’t been publicly released does not mean it’s not being actively exploited. The general public needs to know in a timely manner in order to apply local mitigations through available tools, or at minimum a way to detect if the activity has occurred within their environment.

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?

TG: Yes. The general public needs to be aware of these vulnerabilities. As I said above, just because the vulnerability has not been publicly disclosed does not mean it’s not being actively exploited. Companies need a chance to defend against these attacks. If they don’t know the vulnerability exists, how can they possibly defend against it?

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?

TG: This is a tough problem. The underground market for exploits will always outbid the general industry. Companies can’t afford to keep up with these cost. However, I don’t believe the bounty programs are marketed enough. Getting the word out there in a positive tone could potentially go a long way. It’s tough on the researcher due to a lot of time being applied for very minimal monetary gain. However, this does give that researcher ‘street cred’. Listing vulnerabilities reported to CERT on your resume will take you further than listing certifications.

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

TG: Yes and no. The world needs to know about these vulnerabilities, but we need to be careful on picking and choosing which vulnerability we will be marketing. On a regular basis there are vulnerabilities that are rated as a 10 released to the public. Some patched, some not. I think it’s great way to spread the word, but I also think it could leave some pretty nasty vulnerabilities to fall to the wayside.

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?

TG: The NSA was purchasing these zero days in secret previously and may continue to do so. If anything, this just puts the US in a tough spot when competing digitally with other aggressive nation-states, like China. If the U.S. adheres to the policy change it’s possible it could affect the pricing due to a lower demand and plus or minus 25 million dollars a year less being dropped into this underground market. I’m unsure of the actual zero day market share to say whether this is a drop in the bucket or not. We do see costs of zero days ranging from a couple hundred dollars to a couple hundred thousand dollars which is currently significantly more than most bug bounties.