Saturday, June 24, 2006

On bug disclosure and contact with vendors

After reading HDM's blog entry on interaction with MS on one of the recent bugs, I guess I should drop my 2c's worth of opinion into the bowl regarding bug disclosure:

So sometimes I get the urge to find bugs. Then I go out and sometimes I find bugs. Then I usually feel quite happy and sometimes I even write an exploit. I do all this out of personal enjoyment -- I like bugs. I like having to play carambolage billard to get an exploit to work (meaning having to bounce things off of each other in weird angles to get stuff to work). Now, of course, once I am done I have several options on what to do with a bug.
  1. Report it to the vendor. This would imply the following steps, all of which take up time and effort better spent on doing something interesting:
    1. Send mail to their secure@ address, requesting an encryption key. I think it is amusing that some vendors like to call security researchers irresponsible when the default channel for reporting vulnerabilities is unencrypted. That is about as irresponsible as the researchers talking about vulnerabilities on EFNET.
    2. Get the encryption key. Spend time writing a description. Send the description, possibly with a PoC.
    3. MSRC is a quite skilled bunch, but with almost any other software vendor, a huge back and forth begins now where one has to spend time explaining things to the other side. This involves writing boring things explaining boring concepts etc.
  2. Sell it to somebody who pays for vulnerabilities. While this will imply the same lengthy process as mentioned above, at least one can in theory get paid for it. Personally, I wouldn't sell bugs, but that could have several reasons:
    1. I am old and lame and can't find bugs that are good enough any more
    2. The few bugs that I find are too close to my heart to sell -- each good bug and each good exploit has a story, and I am not so broke that I'd need to sell something that I consider inherently beautiful
    3. I don't know the people buying these things. I don't know what they'd do with it. I wouldn't give my dog to a total stranger either.
  3. Keep it. Perhabs on a shelf, or in a frame. This implies zero effort on my side. It also gives me the joy of being able to look at it on my wall and think fondly of the story that it belonged to.
So in case of 1), after having spent weeks on a bug, I have to spend more time doing something unenjoyable, and get a warm handshake with the words 'thanks for helping secure (the internet/the world/our revenue stream'.
In case 2), I get a warm handshake, some money, and a feeling of guilt for having given my dog to a total stranger.
In case 3), I have something to look at with fond memories and have to invest no time at all into things that I don't find interesting.

What would be your choice ?

Friday, June 23, 2006

I really enjoyed reading Ilfak's blog post today :-) -- it always makes me happy to see clever abstractions and the results they produce. And I really enjoy original ideas (of which there seems to be a very finite amount in IT :)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Compression, Statistics and such

In the process of doing the usual stuff that I do when I do not struggle with my studies, I ran into the problem of having a number of streams with a very even distribution of byte values. I know that these bytes are executable code somehow encoded. I have a lot of reason to suspect that they are compressed, not encrypted, but I have not been able to make sense of it yet.

This brought me to the natural question: Do common encryption algorithms have statistical fingerprints that would allow them to be distinguished from one another, more-or-less irrespective of the underlying data ? It is clear that this gets harder as the amount of redundancy decreases.

It was surprising (at least for me) that nobody else has worked on this yet (publically).

Also, it made me regret that due to some time constraints involving some more algebraic courses I was unable to attend the Statistics I and II lectures given at my University by Prof. Dette. Had I attended, I would know better how to make sense of the capabilities that software like R could give me.

Another example of the fundamental law of mathematics: For every n denoting the number of days you have studied mathematics there exists a practical problem that make you wish you had studied 2n days already.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Some shameless self-promotion: Rolf and me are going to teach a special one-day class on BinDiff 2 at BlackHat Las Vegas this year:

We'll cover applications of BinDiff to malware analysis, detecting Code Theft and GPL violations, and of course the usual patch analysis.

Saturday, June 03, 2006