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-2015-0543
Published: 2015-07-05
EMC Secure Remote Services Virtual Edition (ESRS VE) 3.x before 3.06 does not properly verify X.509 certificates from SSL servers, which allows man-in-the-middle attackers to spoof servers and obtain sensitive information via a crafted certificate.

CVE-2015-0544
Published: 2015-07-05
EMC Secure Remote Services Virtual Edition (ESRS VE) 3.x before 3.06 does not properly generate random values for session cookies, which makes it easier for remote attackers to hijack sessions by predicting a value.

CVE-2015-2721
Published: 2015-07-05
Mozilla Network Security Services (NSS) before 3.19, as used in Mozilla Firefox before 39.0, Firefox ESR 31.x before 31.8 and 38.x before 38.1, Thunderbird before 38.1, and other products, does not properly determine state transitions for the TLS state machine, which allows man-in-the-middle attacke...

CVE-2015-2722
Published: 2015-07-05
Use-after-free vulnerability in the CanonicalizeXPCOMParticipant function in Mozilla Firefox before 39.0 and Firefox ESR 31.x before 31.8 and 38.x before 38.1 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via vectors involving attachment of an XMLHttpRequest object to a shared worker.

CVE-2015-2724
Published: 2015-07-05
Multiple unspecified vulnerabilities in the browser engine in Mozilla Firefox before 39.0, Firefox ESR 31.x before 31.8 and 38.x before 38.1, and Thunderbird before 38.1 allow remote attackers to cause a denial of service (memory corruption and application crash) or possibly execute arbitrary code v...

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Marc Spitler, co-author of the Verizon DBIR will share some of the lesser-known but most intriguing tidbits from the massive report