Security researchers and hackers find vulnerabilities. What’s their responsibility in disclosure? What about the vendors when they hear the vulnerabilities? And do journalists have to adhere to the same timelines?



Check out this post for the discussion that is the basis of our conversation on this week’s episode co-hosted by me, David Spark (@dspark), the producer of CISO Series and Allan Alford (@AllanAlfordinTX). Our guest is Tom Merritt (@acedtect), host, Daily Tech News Show.

Thanks to this week’s podcast sponsor, Qualys

Qualys is a pioneer and leading provider of cloud-based security and compliance solutions.

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On this episode of Defense in Depth, you’ll learn:

  • Manufacturers, software companies, researchers, hackers, and journalists all play a role in responsible disclosure.
  • Vulnerabilities will exist, they will be found, and how companies want to be alerted about those issues and inform their public are key elements in the process of responsible disclosure.
  • While there are CERT guidelines for responsible disclosure, there are no real hard and fast rules. There will always be judgement calls involved. But like the doctor’s Hippocratic Oath, the goal is to minimize harm.
  • You can’t announce a vulnerability without offering a fix. It’s opening the door to the bad guys to come in and cause havoc.
  • There is a long history of how vulnerabilities have been disclosed. It often was a surprise and malicious. The trend of responsible disclosure and bug bounties has given rise to the legitimacy of white hat hackers and the process of exposing vulnerabilities.
  • One listener argued that the term “responsible disclosure” implies a moral judgement. He argued that it should be referred to as “coordinated disclosure.”
  • There is still frustration on multiple sides with how responsible disclosure should be handled. Researchers sometimes argue they’re not getting recognized or paid. Companies often feel extorted by researchers who want answers on their timelines. And journalists have to weigh the importance and criticality of a vulnerability. Should they let people know about it even if there really isn’t a good fix yet.