[LINK] An Auction Site for Vulnerabilities
brd at iimetro.com.au
Sat Jul 7 09:51:13 EST 2007
An Auction Site for Vulnerabilities
July 5, 2007
Discover a security flaw in a major application or system? You can't
sell it on eBay. But starting this week, you can sell it on a new
auction site that's not too much different.
WabiSabiLabi, whose marketplace opened for trading on Tuesday, is aiming
to change the back-room market for security vulnerabilities and move it
into the mainstream. Any researcher who finds a flaw can register to
sell it on WSLabi's marketplace. WSLabi, a "neutral, vendor-independent
Swiss laboratory," checks out the vulnerabilities and verifies their
validity in its own labs before allowing them to be auctioned.
"This thing could definitely have legs," says Jeremiah Grossman, CTO of
WhiteHat Security. "I've heard people talk about selling exploits for a
while, auction-style or otherwise, but this is the first auction
implementation I've seen. All this would take is a couple of successful
transactions, and it could cause a big shift in the way we traditionally
think about the vulnerability disclosure process."
There currently are four auctions going in the WabiSabiLabi marketplace,
including a Linux kernel memory leak vulnerability that starts at 500 euros.
The marketplace's founders say they believe the "ethical disclosure"
policy followed by many security researchers is costing them money. "The
system introduced by 'ethical disclosure' has been historically abused
by both vendors and security providers in order to exploit the work of
security researchers for free," the auction site says.
"This happens only in the IT security field," the site states. "Nobody
in the pharmaceutical industry is blackmailing researchers (or the
companies that are financing the research) to force them to release the
results for free under an ethical disclosure policy.
"In this view, WabiSabiLabi has a not-for-free-disclosure policy,
explicitly aiming to reward researchers," the founders state. "The only
free information available to both vendors and public will be the
general information on each piece of security research listed on the
marketplace, which will be enough to understand the issues introduced by
each security research, without disclosing any sensible technical detail."
"Recently it was reported that although researchers had analyzed a
little more than 7,000 publicly disclosed vulnerabilities last year, the
number of new vulnerabilities found in code could be as high as 139,362
per year," said WSLabi CEO Herman Zampariolo, in a written statement.
"Our intention is that the marketplace facility on WSLabi will enable
security researchers to get a fair price for their findings and ensure
that they will no longer be forced to give them away for free or sell
them to cyber-criminals."
WSLabi states that the research can only be sold under the condition
that "the provided security research material must not come from an
illegal source/activity." The site does not say which country's laws it
will use to define the term "illegal" -- Germany, for example, recently
adopted legislation that essentially outlaws all unauthorized access of
computers, even for security research.
Researchers who have seen the site say their first concern is who will
be allowed to buy the vulnerabilities. WSLabi says it will "carefully
evaluate" all potential buyers "to minimize the risk of selling the
right stuff to the wrong people." But the site does not describe its
process for doing the vetting, other than requesting a phone number and
a faxed copy of an identity card.
"My main fear with this type of thing is that it is difficult to
differentiate between a legitimate buyer and someone who simply wants to
use the vulnerability for nefarious purposes," says Robert Hansen
(a.k.a. RSnake), CEO of SecTheory LLC. "Many of the biggest players in
the software industry have said time and time again that they will not
buy vulnerabilities, in the same way that the U.S. does not negotiate
WSLabi says it will help researchers design the best-selling scheme and
starting price for their discoveries, "enabling them to maximize the
value of their findings. A piece of research that would currently sell
to one company on an exclusive basis for $300 to $1,000 could sell for
ten to twenty times more than this amount using the portal," the auction
The site works much like eBay, with options for Dutch auctions, Buy Now,
and a definite running time for each auction. Sellers can choose to sell
exclusively to a single buyer or to multiple purchasers. WSLabi did not
disclose how much it charges to test the vulnerabilities and act as a
broker for each sale.
"I'd expect several researchers to give it a try," Grossman says.
brd at iimetro.com.au
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