tssci security

Don't Tell Mom the World is Gonna End

Today, another vulnerability has been making the headlines, various industry security professionals predicting apocalyspe, genocide and famine along with everything in between. It first started earlier this summer, back when Dan Kaminsky, in a multi-vendor coordinated effort, told the world of his DNS vulnerability. Then came the BGP hijacking, disclosed by Tony Kapela and Alex Pilosov at Defcon. Granted, these were serious issues and not to discredit their research, the vulnerabilities themselves were nothing truly groundbreaking. Both DNS poisoning and BGP hijacking are literally implemented into the RFC -- it was all just a matter of enumerating the various ways of doing it.

Following, came RSnake's and Jeremiah Grossman's browser Clickjacking bug, which when disclosed to Adobe, Adobe took upon themselves to fix within Flash and asked both to cancel their OWASP presentation at AppSec NYC 2008 last week. Today (or rather this week), was Robert E. Lee's and Jack Louis' SYN Cookie DoS vulnerability, affecting almost every TCP/IP stack implementation. (why people are even using SYN cookies is beyond my comprehension -- it's a hack and does not mitigate DoS attacks, though that's a seperate discussion on its own) [Edit (10/02/2008 11:30): I misread the original post and it is not a vulnerability with SYN cookies. Robert was using SYN cookies as an analogy. See Outpost24's TCP DOS Attack Explained]

The common occurrence between these vulnerabilities? They all were touted as super critical vulnerabilities that could bring down the internet and pwn every being in existence. In addition, the researchers behind them opted not to disclose details of the vulnerability. What this created, was an incentive, or challenge to others to discover the vulnerability before the discovering researchers decided to fully disclose. It took about two weeks before Halvar figured out Dan K's bug, and only another couple hours for Arshan to figure out the Flash/clickjacking vulnerability.

I read this Slashdot comment earlier today which I found hysterical, that poked fun at RSnake's "Robert and Jack are smart dudes." I know RSnake is a smart dude too, but really, at the end of the day, you're taking our word for it. And to quote Bruce Potter, "Don't believe anything I say."

But seriously though, I think the blogosphere is doing a disservice hyping these vulnerabilities to no end, and researchers doing a disservice to themselves when they disclose this way. Don't tell the world until you're ready. If you're not ready, stay home. The security industry needs to stop crying wolf, because not everybody holds security to the same level of attention as we do. People are getting tired of the fear, uncertainty and doubt we spread.

Instead, let's focus on fixing the problems and providing lessons learned so these vulnerabilities don't crop up again. That's what people truly want to see. If you discover a vulnerability and want to report it to the vendor, that's great! Continue to work with the vendor until a patch has been released before going public -- even to announce you have something. Just please, don't come out and ask us to pick a hand when you know both are empty.

Posted by Marcin on Wednesday, October 1, 2008 in News, People and Security.

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