Debian attacker may have used new exploit

John Macdonald jmm-TU2q2He6PgRlD5gtYiU6kEEOCMrvLtNR at
Wed Dec 3 14:16:11 UTC 2003

On Wed, Dec 03, 2003 at 07:46:08AM -0500, JoeHill wrote:
> On Wed, 3 Dec 2003 08:24:38 -0500
> John Macdonald <jmm-TU2q2He6PgRlD5gtYiU6kEEOCMrvLtNR at> wrote:
> > > > Ask yourself: if this were a certain proprietary company, would this
> > > > news leak out so quickly, and would said organization publish a detailed
> > > > post-mortem as soon as one is available?
> > > 
> > > There's no "if". Microsoft actually got seriously pissed recently when news
> > > of *seven* new vulnerabilities, two of them critical, was released to the
> > > general public rather than being privately and secretly notified
> > > themselves.
> > 
> > That's a different matter and worthy of everyone being
> > pissed.  Anyone finding a new vulnerability should
> > notify the owner of the code and give them some time
> > to find a cure before making a public announcement.
> > For an open source project, the original notification
> > will be partially public, but you still should not
> > try to make the news widely public until there has
> > been adequate time to find a fix and distribute it.
> > (Proprietary source products often require a longer
> > period of time for that process to be carried out.)
> > After the period of time is up, then announcing
> > the vulnerability is fine (and if the code owner
> > has wasted the time and not arranged a fix to be
> > distributed widely enough, it rightly looks bad
> > on them).
> I think considering MS's past behaviour in this respect (ie. taking *months* to
> issue fixes that do not even work), the discoverers of the vulnerabilities did
> the right thing. Leaving that aside, MS has no right to expect "courtesy" from
> the security community, taking into account it has acted with aggressive
> intolerance at any and all criticism of it's security track record, witness the
> recent case of the CCIA report and the subsequent firing of it's principle
> author from an MS-connected company, @Stake.

MS has a poor track record for sure, but your example
was not a case of MS acting poorly - they weren't
given a chance.  Now you're saying they don't deserve
a chance, but that is irrelevant to your original
point that this example proved that open source does
a better job.  The open source community can't fix
problem before they know of them either.

> The argument that public disclosure of security flaws encourages hackers is very
> weak, and reeks of justification, in comparison to the logically sound idea that
> more public scrutiny means more pressure, and more resources, brought to bear to
> fix said bugs. Hence Eric S. Raymond's "many eyes make all bugs shallow."

Immediate public disclosure does not provide more eyes
for a bug in MS code, just more eyes in the cracker

Telling MS of a bug, and then telling the world later
of the bug (and that MS was told a month earlier
so that people can judge whether their response was
adequate) provide more than ample pressure, and may
reduce the number of exploits carried out against
victims who have never had any warning or chance to
apply a fix because there wasn't one.  If MS responds
prompty (which they are doing better at these days -
they've learned that they have to), then when the
public announcement goes out any attacks prompted by
the announcement can only be applied against people
who have not yet applied the fix.
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