6/21/2007
08:35 AM
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Old Dogs Can Still Do Dirty Tricks

Vulnerabilities can remain dangerous even after they've been discovered and patched

4:35 PM -- "It’s been done before." These are words I hear often when doing my research. You can chalk it up to great minds thinking alike, but it’s frustrating when you think you’re the first -- or at least have a new take on an old issue.

The security industry tends to have a pattern to its madness. Someone discloses a vulnerability, the company who developed the software issues a patch, and the press dies down. But does that pattern really make sense?

I’ve seen vendors patch countless exploits that were extremely dangerous. But what does that mean, exactly? Does that mean the vendor called all its customers, gave them copies of the new software, and insured that they correctly installed the new patch? Doubtful. There are only a few companies that even have automatic patching processes for all of their products, and even those only work if you are using a version of the product that has automatic patching enabled.

So here I sit as a researcher, with thousands of "solved" issues in my brain, looking at a Web application that clearly has a vulnerability -- a vulnerability that has been known for almost 10 years. Does that mean that the issue is no longer there, simply because security researchers have seen it? No. The threat persists because these issues aren’t solved. Just because they are known by a very small group of people doesn’t mean they are solved.

Herein lies the problem. We have security researchers saying it’s not new and vendors saying they’ve long issued a patch, and yet the vulnerability persists. Does that mean it’s less interesting? Perhaps, but that’s irrelevant to the problem at hand. We have vulnerable applications out there that no one has patched -- and without a plan to do so, attackers will always have a way into your network.

It may be "old news," but if you're still vulnerable, it's no less dangerous.

— RSnake is a red-blooded lumberjack whose rants can also be found at Ha.ckers and F*the.net. Special to Dark Reading.

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