Code for Legit People

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2004-04-29 Print this article Print

What if a trend develops and exploit code becomes harder for legit people to get? I can see law getting involved in this, too, at least trying to track who obtains exploit code. Turns out there may be a middle ground. There are pay services through which you can get exploit code. One is The Immunity Vulnerability Sharing Club from Immunity Inc. VulnDisco is another.

Of course, if youre running an eight-user network for a nonprofit organization, youre not going to get the money to pay for such a service. But youre probably also not going to be testing exploit code, so I dont completely buy any elitism arguments.

For insights on security coverage around the Web, check out Security Center Editor Larry Seltzers Weblog.
There are also "free speech" arguments that get made, but I dont think they are operative here, at least unless the government really does get involved. The main point isnt whether people should be allowed to publish exploit code, but whether its a good idea to do so. Clearly, its a tradeoff.

Overall, I think its got to be made harder to write attacks, and making it harder to get exploit code is one way to do that. Look at the latest round of Microsoft patches. The worms began to appear just about two weeks after the vulnerabilities were announced and patches released. Its not easy to write exploit code for a lot of these attacks. The harder we make it, the longer users get to test and patch.

So, I hope more researchers take Johnny Cyberpunks lead and stop leaving low-hanging fruit for malware writers. Theres a middle ground to be found that serves the interests of both researchers and users while frustrating the bad guys. Lets try to find it.

Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983. Check out eWEEK.coms Security Center at for security news, views and analysis.
Be sure to add our security news feed to your RSS newsreader or My Yahoo page:   More from Larry Seltzer

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel