Attacks/Breaches
10/5/2012
12:34 PM
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
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
Dark Reading, September 16, 2014
Malicious software is morphing to be more targeted, stealthy, and destructive. Are you prepared to stop it?
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-2886
Published: 2014-09-18
GKSu 2.0.2, when sudo-mode is not enabled, uses " (double quote) characters in a gksu-run-helper argument, which allows attackers to execute arbitrary commands in certain situations involving an untrusted substring within this argument, as demonstrated by an untrusted filename encountered during ins...

CVE-2014-4352
Published: 2014-09-18
Address Book in Apple iOS before 8 relies on the hardware UID for its encryption key, which makes it easier for physically proximate attackers to obtain sensitive information by obtaining this UID.

CVE-2014-4353
Published: 2014-09-18
Race condition in iMessage in Apple iOS before 8 allows attackers to obtain sensitive information by leveraging the presence of an attachment after the deletion of its parent (1) iMessage or (2) MMS.

CVE-2014-4354
Published: 2014-09-18
Apple iOS before 8 enables Bluetooth during all upgrade actions, which makes it easier for remote attackers to bypass intended access restrictions via a Bluetooth session.

CVE-2014-4356
Published: 2014-09-18
Apple iOS before 8 does not follow the intended configuration setting for text-message preview on the lock screen, which allows physically proximate attackers to obtain sensitive information by reading this screen.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio