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Vulnerabilities / Threats

10/13/2011
02:15 PM
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More Exploits For Sale Means Better Security

Selling exploits can help companies test their systems, but is there room for an independent market?

For a decade, security researchers have been able to earn money by selling the details of significant vulnerabilities to bounty programs: first to the Vulnerability Contributor Program launched by iDefense in 2002, and then to TippingPoint's Zero Day Initiative, which went live in 2005.

Extending the model, security research and testing firm NSS Labs launched ExploitHub, an app store model for the sale of code to exploit known vulnerabilities. Preapproved buyers can browse the store and pay anywhere from $50 to $1,000 for ready-to-use exploit code.

Yet the mix of attack code has been anemic. A look at ExploitHub shows that sellers are hawking code that attacks Oracle, Novell, and a handful of Windows vulnerabilities. NSS Labs hopes to change that: Last week, the company introduced a voting system for buyers to specify vulnerabilities of interest, as well as a prize system that pays a bounty for posting code to exploit the flaws. The company plans to pay between $200 and $500 for working attacks that target specific vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer and Adobe Flash.

By providing exploits that are in greater demand, defenders are better served, said Rick Moy, CEO of NSS Labs.

"The bad guys have the ability to create these exploits and launch them maliciously," he says. "But the good guys don't even have access to those exploits, so they can't test their defenses to tell whether they are secure or not."

While zero-day attacks--targeting previously unknown and unpatched vulnerabilities--are a wide concern, companies need to test their security against known vulnerabilities as well. The majority of firms delay rolling out patches, and to make sure that they are not leaving themselves vulnerable to attack, must be able to block the exploitation of their software.

By selling exploits for known flaws, ExploitHub helps IT security teams and penetration testers check an organization's security, and it keeps software vendors pressured to push out patches for major vulnerabilities, said Marc Maiffret, chief technology officer for eEye Digital Security, a network and host-based security firm.

Read the rest of this article on Dark Reading.

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