Attacks/Breaches
10/5/2012
12:34 PM
50%
50%

Weaponized Bugs: Time For Digital Arms Control

Thriving trade in zero-day vulnerabilities means dangerous bugs get sold to the highest bidder, and that puts everyone else at risk.

Who Is Anonymous: 10 Key Facts
Who Is Anonymous: 10 Key Facts
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Is it right that every newly discovered zero-day vulnerability can potentially be turned into a weapon?

Of course, not every bug goes down that path. Security researchers can disclose unknown vulnerabilities directly to vendors, then withhold details until the vendor issues a fix. They can also simply go public with information about the vulnerability. Or they can keep the details of the bug secret, and sell the information to the highest bidder. But if they do that, who's buying?

"Google and Microsoft can't outbid the U.S. government--they will never win a bidding war with the Army, Navy, or NSA," warned security and privacy expert Christopher Soghoian in his recent keynote speech at the Virus Bulletin 2012 conference in Dallas, titled, "The trade in security exploits: free speech or weapons in need of regulation?"

Recently, there's been a recent shift away from the old way of selling bugs, via "bug bounties and compensated responsible disclosure through firms like ZDI and TippingPoint," said Soghoian, principal technologist and a senior policy analyst with the Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. Instead, valuable bugs are now being resold by firms such as Endgame Systems and Vupen, who make no bones about the possibility that vulnerabilities might be used for espionage or even offensive operations.

[ Read So You Want To Be A Zero Day Exploit Millionaire? ]

What's a good bug worth? Earlier this year, Forbes profiled The Grugq, who's based in Bangkok and acts as a broker between vulnerability buyers and sellers. The Grugq, who takes a 15% commission, says he generally won't touch a bug unless it's worth at least $50,000, and six-figure deals aren't uncommon.

Security expert Charlie Miller, a former National Security Agency employee, said that he sold a Linux operating system Samba server software vulnerability in 2005 to the U.S. government for $80,000, after he was told to name a price. Although Miller now says he wished he'd asked for more money, he did admit to getting a fabulous new kitchen out of the deal.

That revelation, cited by Soghoian as the first publicly known sale of a vulnerability to the U.S. government, led to somewhat predictable banter, with The Grugq proposing via Twitter that henceforth, "[vulnerabilities] should be rated based on the number of kitchen remodeling projects they could sponsor," offering a baseline of "3 kitchens" for any malware signed with the digital certificates recently stolen from Adobe.

Previous
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2015-0714
Published: 2015-05-02
Multiple cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in Cisco Finesse Server 10.0(1), 10.5(1), 10.6(1), and 11.0(1) allow remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via unspecified parameters, aka Bug ID CSCut53595.

CVE-2014-3598
Published: 2015-05-01
The Jpeg2KImagePlugin plugin in Pillow before 2.5.3 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service via a crafted image.

CVE-2014-8361
Published: 2015-05-01
The miniigd SOAP service in Realtek SDK allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via a crafted NewInternalClient request.

CVE-2015-0237
Published: 2015-05-01
Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) Manager before 3.5.1 ignores the permission to deny snapshot creation during live storage migration between domains, which allows remote authenticated users to cause a denial of service (prevent host start) by creating a long snapshot chain.

CVE-2015-0257
Published: 2015-05-01
Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) Manager before 3.5.1 uses weak permissions on the directories shared by the ovirt-engine-dwhd service and a plugin during service startup, which allows local users to obtain sensitive information by reading files in the directory.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Join security and risk expert John Pironti and Dark Reading Editor-in-Chief Tim Wilson for a live online discussion of the sea-changing shift in security strategy and the many ways it is affecting IT and business.