“OSS means slower patches” – huh?!

[This was originally posted on the OSVDB blog.]

OSS means slower patches
Chris Jenkins
SEPTEMBER 19, 2005

This was posted to Full-Disclosure where I first replied, and ISN picked up. Articles like this do nothing positive for our industry. Jenkins should not waste his time writing fluff pieces like this, and he should do some digging or at least question other sources. Of course, this is not the first time Symantec’s vuln stats have been questioned either. Since that post, no one at Symantec has given any insight as to how they derive their statistics and what lead to their conclusions.

I haven’t had time to read the full report mirrored here, but I have a feeling it will bring more questions than answers like the previous one did.

Full text of my reply:

The obvious criticism:

“The Mozilla family of browsers had the highest number of vulnerabilities during the first six months of 2005, with 25,” the Symantec report says. “Eighteen of these, or 72 per cent, were rated as high severity. Microsoft Internet Explorer had 13 vendor confirmed vulnerabilities, of which eight, or 62 per cent, were considered high severity.”

Microsoft IE had at least 19 vulnerabilities from 2005-01-01 to 2005-06-30. Why does Symantec make the distinction of “X vulnerabilities in Mozilla” vs “MSIE had X *vendor confirmed vulnerabilities*”? This all to conveniently allows the silently patched vulnerabilities to slip through the cracks of our statistics. Does Mozilla’s honesty in acknowledging vulnerabilities come back to bite them in the ass?

Mozilla browsers had more than 25, but are 72 per cent really “high severity”? Download information spoofing x2, File extension spoofing, URL restriction bypass, DoS x2, redirect spoofing, XSS, link status bar spoofing, Dialog overlapping, URL Wrap Obfuscation.. are all of these really “high severity”? Is that theoretical, practical, or hype?

Now, the media/Symantec driven propaganda (for lack of better word?):

THE growing popularity of open-source browsers and software may be responsible for the increasing gap between the exposure of a vulnerability and the provision of patch to fix it, security software vendor Symantec has said.

Mr Sykes said the increasing popularity of open source software, such as the Mozilla Foundation’s Firefox browser, could be part of the reason for the increase in the gap between vulnerability and patch, with the open source development model itself part of the problem. “It is relying on the goodwill and best efforts of many people, and that doesn’t have the same commercial imperative,” he said. “I’m sure that is part of what is causing the blow-out in the patch window.”

The growth in Firefox vulnerability reports coincides with its increasing popularity with users. “It is very clear that Firefox is gaining acceptance and I would therefore expect to see it targeted,” Mr Sykes said. “People don’t attack browsers and systems per se, they attack the people that use them,” he said. “As soon as large banks started using Linux, Linux vulnerabilities started to get exploited.”

The premise of this article is open source software is to blame for longer vendor response times. In laymen’s terms, blame vendors like Mozilla for having vulnerabilities patched slower? Err, compared to what? This shallow article doesn’t even qualify that statement! Slower than previous vulnerabilities? Slower than non open source? Given the article directly compares Mozilla browsers to Microsoft IE, it is trivial to assume the claim is made in relation to closed source vendors such as Microsoft. So then what .. 30 days “blown out” to 54 days is some huge time gap compared
to Microsoft IE patches? What clueless *moron* really believes this crap they are shoveling? Is it Symantec or Chris Jenkins or Australian IT?

Given that Symantec won’t even quote previous statistics: “Symantec had not published previously statistics on the average time required to produce patches, but Mr Sykes said data showed the lag had previously been about 30 days.” Given that Jenkins/AusIT/Symantec won’t give us any statistics (even questionable ones) regarding MSIE patches, we’re supposed to take this at face value? It is *well documented* that Microsoft takes well over 30 days to patch vulnerabilities. It is also becoming crystal clear that Microsoft is hiding behind their “30 day patch cycle” to imply
that is the longest they go before patching a vulnerability, when it simply is not the case. Taking a look at a *single vendor* [1] and their experience with reporting vulnerabilities to Microsoft, we see that they give MS a 60 day window to patch vulnerabilities, and are consistently overdue. As of this mail, the worse is *ONLY* 114 days past due (we’ve seen it closer to 250 days before). So again, where are these implications coming from? Where does this statement/conclusion/observation that “OSS causes slower patches” come from exactly?

[1] http://www.eeye.com/html/research/upcoming/index.html

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