Responsible Disclosure or Full Disclosure?

Published: 2010-07-27
Last Updated: 2010-07-27 21:27:20 UTC
by John Bambenek (Version: 1)
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The Google Online Security Blog posted a brief article on their opinion the full vs responsible disclosure debate... likely in the wake of the controversy of one of their researchers publishing a security vulnerability.  The debate on publishing security vulnerabilities has been and remains a hot one.  Almost all vendors support "responsible disclosure" (a term that I absolutely detest) where a researcher discloses the bug only to the software vendor who then (hopefully) patches the bug.  Full disclosure is publishing the vulnerability publicly once it is discovered (or in some cases, once a PR firm has been hired to manage the hype).

There are pros and cons to both approaches.  Responsible disclosure really only works when there is responsible software development.  However, if the good guys have the vulnerability, the bad guys have it and at least 12 more.  With the exception of the few vendors which buy vulnerabilities, responsible disclosure does not allow the security community to develop counter-measures to protect against the threat while a patch is being developed.  For instance, it took about a week for software to be developed to detect the LNK vulnerability and there are still problems with it.  On the other hand, full disclosure hands the details to the bad guys in public so they can immediately exploit the vulnerability.  It does, however, get vendors and researchers to move quickly.

What are your thoughts on how disclosure should be handled? 

John Bambenek
bambenek at gmail /dot/ com

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