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Heartbleed & The Long Tail Of Vulnerabilities
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RetiredUser
RetiredUser,
User Rank: Ninja
6/13/2014 | 1:55:52 PM
Whose Responsibility?
 

Excellent point.  But it begs the question: Who is responsible?  See, for all those thousands of systems out there that make up the long tail, should it only be cyber criminals scanning the length of it until they find vulnerable systems?  The obvious answer should be the IT staff who own the systems need to be doing that, too, but as history shows, they aren't all owning up to their responsibilities.  So who?

I'd always imagined there would be an organization of white hatters who, with documented, iron-clad passports to hack from law enforcement and government agencies, would work day in and out doing exactly what the black hatters are doing except, once they find a vulnerable system, they immediately lock it down, or reach out to the owners and get them to do their job.

If that sounds like a superhero comic book more than reality, take account of the trillions of American dollars (and then add in every country on top of that subject to cyber criminal activities) lost to cyber crime and ask whether it isn't worth it to invest in a group like this that essentially mimics a cyber criminal crew up to the last action, then takes one more vulnerable system out of the equation.

The high tech industries have a responsibility to the average citizen to provide assurances like this, just as our government provides law enforcement and military, because high tech is where this threat comes from.  Software giants have established an electronic frontier that is basically pushed upon the everyday person, whether they want it or not, yet takes little global responsibility over the security and restoration of those lives harmed through the necessity of high tech in today's society.

How about the next few million dollars invested in tech go to forming a team like this that can make a real nation-wide difference, not for profit, simply to give back to the millions of people hurt by an ecosystem they may not even have wanted in their lives.  For me, someone that eats, breathes and dreams tech, I think that is the least we can do; when the power goes down, it's those people we'll need to be friends with, not silicon billionaires.
mckeay
mckeay,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/16/2014 | 5:32:47 AM
Re: Whose Responsibility?
While the idea of having a governmental agency perform environmental cleanup of old technologies and unpatched servers seems interesting, I am not sure it'd be any more well received than the real Environmental Protection agency in the US.

Let's think about this for a moment.  Right now governmental agencies who do security are already thought of in the dimmest light possible and the NSA has been accused of hoarding 0-Day vulnerabilities for their own use.  Do you think an agency that is charged with scanning for unpatched systems wouldn't be tempted to do the same or encouraged to do so by intel gathering organizations? 

Another thing to think of is that businesses aren't going to appreciate having someone from the outside doing testing on their systems and telling them they have to spend resources on fixing the problem.  Most businesses know they have systems that aren't getting patched already and rather than fixing the problem, they'd rather ignore it and take the chance it won't get discovered.  

One final point is that it's no longer just high tech businesses that this applies to.  Every business has some aspect of high tech to it, some connection to the Internet and some level of dependence on that technology.  Should the businesses that supply this technology to them be more concerned with patching and updating?  Of course, but until the businesses relying on the technology demand it and there's money relying on those patches, nothing's going to change.

The idea of a not-for-profit organization that employs scanning technology and notifies businesses of their exposed vulnerabilities is interesting.  But given the current legal environment in most western countries, this would be a risky endeavor at best, since even scanning a company can be met with legal action if you annoy the wrong person.  There's a lot of unintended consequences of the current legal system and I'm not sure there wouldn't be the same if we changed the laws to allow for scanning and notification.  
Marilyn Cohodas
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
6/16/2014 | 8:46:21 AM
Re: Whose Responsibility?
Have to agree with Martin that a government agency isn't the answer but the idea of an intelligence-sharing effort between government and the private sector is definitely worth considering, along the lines of what the retail industry is attempting in the wake of Target and other breaches, as well as similar endeavors in financial services & defense. 

 


i
RetiredUser
RetiredUser,
User Rank: Ninja
6/16/2014 | 3:15:48 PM
Re: Whose Responsibility?
@ Marilyn Cohodas @ mckeay

When we look at the stakes and how many are affected how can we not act, regardless the fears of business owners and private organizations?  And, I can't see the government being involved directly; look at BP in the Southern US.  A travesty on a scale unforgivable - one of many incidents where a protective agency like the EPA who should have more power doesn't, or where someone is fearful of losing "big money" for the US.  I won't speak to criminal negligence here.  So if we created a CEPA (Cyber Environmental Protection Agency)?  Can't see that going well if it was government-run.  But rather than simply put the task in the hands of hacktivists who would be risking legal actions (as many do with the publishing of exploits every day), we'd need at least government sign-off and local law enforcement sign-off; highly unlikely, I know.  Something needs to be done.  I hate open questions... 
Bprince
Bprince,
User Rank: Ninja
6/23/2014 | 12:33:15 AM
unpatched systems
It's unfortunately a reality that many people are going to leave systems unpatched long after a patch is available. I think in that case if there is a breach, unless we are talking about a power plant or something that may have a reasonable excuse, there should be legal liability for the business. I mean really - if you haven't patched the vulnerability at the center of Conficker (MS08-067) by 2014, that's a problem.

BP


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