[ISN] Security Vendor Cuts Ties With CERT

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Jan 29 2003 - 00:22:39 PST

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    By Dennis Fisher
    January 28, 2003 
    A prominent U.K.-based security vendor well-known for finding
    dangerous vulnerabilities in a variety of software said on Monday that
    it would no longer work with the CERT Coordination Center after CERT
    personnel gave advance notice of several new vulnerabilities to a
    software vendor and some government officials.
    Researchers at Next Generation Security Software Ltd. were angered
    when a representative from a software vendor told them that CERT had a
    policy of providing advance information on vulnerabilities to some
    organizations and government agencies, which pay for this privilege.  
    Mark Litchfield, co-founder of NGS Software, said he was unaware of
    the policy and was unhappy that CERT was collecting money for research
    that his company had done. While he acknowledged that CERT is a
    non-profit organization, Litchfield disputes its right to charge for
    others' work.
    "My problem is that we provide CERT with this information with the
    sole view to using their own database of security alert subscribers to
    help the administrator of a corporate network become aware of the
    situation [and] the impact it has to them with the hope that there
    would be an increase in the uptake of patching," Litchfield said. "I
    do not wish to help them in any fashion 'profiting' from our hard
    research. We don't even profit from it, why should they?"
    CERT, based at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, is partially
    funded by the federal government and serves as an independent
    clearinghouse of vulnerability and threat information. Its database of
    vulnerabilities is one of the most comprehensive anywhere.
    Security researchers routinely provide CERT with advance notification
    of flaws, typically at the same time they notify the affected vendors.  
    Publication of vendor bulletins is often timed to coincide with the
    release of a CERT advisory and the researcher's own bulletin.
    The question of when and how to release vulnerability information is
    the subject of much debate within the security community. Vendors and
    some researchers favor controlled releases through organizations such
    as CERT, which they argue helps reduce the chances of crackers getting
    vulnerability information before a patch is available. Other
    researchers choose to release information on their own, some without
    ever contacting the affected vendors.
    Litchfield's company has trod the middle ground, always contacting
    vendors but sometimes releasing information before a patch is ready if
    the vendor fails to react in a timely manner.
    NGS Software is best known for hunting down buffer overruns, often in
    popular products from Microsoft Corp. and Oracle Corp. In fact, the
    company last July discovered the vulnerability that the SQL Slammer
    worm exploits.
    Litchfield said he offered to work with CERT under a mutual
    non-disclosure agreement, which CERT officials declined to do. He said
    that in the future, NGS Software, based in Surrey, England, will only
    work directly with the vendors affected by the vulnerabilities his
    company finds.
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