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Vulnerabilities / Threats

9/7/2010
03:17 PM
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September Month Of Bugs Under Way

Researchers say goal is to provide more details on some key known flaws, as well as expose some new zero-day vulnerabilities

The Month of Bugs disclosure model is back, this time mostly detailing some already-known vulnerabilities, and with some zero-day bugs sprinkled into the mix.

Research firm Abysssec is featuring a different bug each day in September, including bugs in Microsoft, Adobe, Mozilla, Novell, and HP software. "We saw [the] damages about 'full disclosure' [over the] years and recently vulnerabilities of enterprise vendors, so we won't be evil ... but we would like to show people [the] true style of advisories because vulnerability research companies like ZDI, iDefense, and ETC won't share enough information about valuable vulnerabilities," says Shahin Ramezany, CTO at Abysssec, which kicked off its month of bugs on Sept. 1 with what the researchers show as an Adobe Acrobat zero-day bug they discovered.

Ramezany says the researchers will post in-depth analyses of software bugs. The goal is to provide researchers with more information about the vulnerabilities, he says. And the researchers will include "critical" zero-day flaw disclosures on some Web and enterprise applications, he says. "And as a note for those advisories which can 'put customers at risk,' we will [notify] vendors, but we won't wait six months for vendor response, for sure," he says.

The zero-days will include proofs-of-concept and exploits for Microsoft Excel, Internet Explorer, Microsoft codecs, Cpanel, and other software, according to Abysssec's blog. Today's vulnerability is a Novell NetWare parsing buffer-overflow flaw.

The month of bugs model has a long history, starting back in 2006 with HD Moore's Month of Browser Bugs and, more recently, with another researcher's month of Twitter bugs.

"This [latest] effort is a bit different from others using the 'month of' moniker in that instead of focusing on a specific vendor or class of issues, they are presenting a large set of results from their own research," says Moore, chief security officer at Rapid7 and chief architect of Metasploit. "Instead of highlighting a particular class of bugs, it's mostly just showing off the work that their team has accomplished."

Moore says it's hard to say how effective this approach is because there doesn't appear to be a specific goal to the approach aside from getting some publicity for their own work, he says. "Many of the bugs are previously disclosed issues, and while everyone doing this kind of work appreciates more details, it doesn't seem to justify a 'month of' series," Moore says.

But it's still free research that covers some interesting bugs and has more useful information than what's found in most advisories, Moore says. "So no complaints," he says.

Releasing zero-day bugs indeed comes with its risks, and vendors should be given a "reasonable" window to patch the flaws, notes security expert Lucas Lundgren. "But the information supplied [by Abysssec] is great, and I believe the vendors can take that into mind and use it when developing applications. They have this huge analysis, and now they can see how these bugs are found and in what areas the need to improve."

Month of bugs and other projects can also raise end user awareness, Lundgren says. "Even my grandma told me not to open any PDF files from unknown sources," Lundgren says.

Meanwhile, researchers have been turning up the heat on vendors to get out patches more rapidly by instituting deadlines for vendors to patch -- or the researchers will go public with the flaw discoveries. Rapid7, for instance, recently set a deadline for bug disclosures of 15 days: If a vendor hasn't patched it by then, then Rapid7 reports the bug to CERT, which gives vendors 45 days to patch from the initial report date before it goes public.

Google set a 60-day deadline for vendors to fix vulnerabilities it finds in their products before going public, and TippingPoint's Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) now works on a six-month time frame from when it reports a bug to a vendor until it goes public with it. But Microsoft has held firm in its position that timetables don't work for patches. Mike Reavey, director of Microsoft Security Response Center, recently said that patch deadlines aren't the answer because it's not a "one-size-fits-all" time frame for fixing vulnerabilities -- some just take longer to fix than others.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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