Microsoft to Disclose Third Party Vulnerabilities

By Fahmida Y. Rashid  |  Posted 2011-04-20 Print this article Print

Microsoft will begin disclosing vulnerabilities it finds in third-party Windows software in addition to its own products. It started off with two bugs in Google's Chrome Web browser.

In a nine-page document titled "Coordinated Vulnerability Disclosure at Microsoft," the company outlined how Microsoft developers will reveal security flaws in its own and other companies' software, how the vendors will be informed, and when it will publicize the information. Microsoft claimed it will publicize the information after the vendor has patched it or if the vendor failed to respond, with one caveat.

If attacks are underway in the wild and the vendor is still working on the update, then Microsoft will work with that vendor "as closely as possible" to provide an early public vulnerability disclosure in a responsible manner to protect customers, Katie Moussouris, a senior security strategist at Microsoft, told eWEEK.

Microsoft issued two vulnerability research advisories on April 19 to accompany the updated CVD policy. One covered a buffer overflow in Google Chrome which allowed arbitrary code to run in the Web browser's sandbox (MSVR11-001), and the other allowed an attacker to use a specific local IP address to exploit an HTML 5 implementation flaw (MSVR11-002) in both Google Chrome and Opera.

Microsoft has long supported coordinated disclosure instead of full disclosure, and has privately supplied bug reports to third-party vendors since August 2008, Moussouris said. Releasing these advisories would help "bolster" the security of the Windows ecosystem, according to Moussouris.

"At the end of the day, Microsoft's customers are at risk for exploitation from non-Microsoft products," Jason Miller, data team manager at Shavlik Technologies, told eWEEK. With MSVR, customers can educated themselves on the latest threats in a centralized location, regardless of whether they exist in Microsoft products or other third-party Windows products, Miller said.

Back in June 2010, Tavis Ormandy, a Google engineer in Switzerland, published the details of a security flaw in Windows and a proof-of-concept code on the Full Disclosure mailing list. Ormandy publicized the flaw a mere four days after notifying Microsoft. Many security researchers believe in "full disclosure," or publicizing the details of a vulnerability so that everyone is informed and to force vendors to repair the flaw quickly.

Microsoft and other vendors argue that full disclosure makes it easier for attackers to target customers.

"Public disclosure of the details of this vulnerability and how to exploit it, without giving us time to resolve the issue for our potentially affected customers, makes broad attacks more likely and puts customers at risk," Mike Reavey, director of the Microsoft Security Response Center, wrote on the division's blog on June 10.

"We have seen in the past where vendors, Microsoft and non-Microsoft, and researchers are not on the same page when it comes to releasing information regarding vulnerabilities," Miller said. |

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