A Word on Solutions (We Won’t Tell)

[This was originally published on the OSVDB blog.]

From time to time, vendors will contact OSVDB to notify us of solutions to vulnerabilities included in the database. These are almost always very professional mails, usually polite, and sometimes include all the details we need/want. These mails may say something along the lines of “we have fixed this issue” which prompts us to ask if it is a patch, upgrade or workaround. Other times they are very descriptive and provide all the information we need to update our entry, add more detail and provide the best information to our users and their customers.

Every once in a while, we get a real winner. On Dec 29, 2005, Global I.S. S.A. contacted us regarding entry 21429, saying “This vulnerability has been addressed.” Within minutes I replied asking if this was in the form of an upgrade or patch but did not hear back from them. On Jan 2, 2006, they contacted us again asking “This is our second request for a change. Is anybody home?” So they didn’t receive my initial reply I assumed (nor did they acknowledge my second reply), but that isn’t what grabbed me. The rest of their mail did:

The vulnerability you refer to has been resolved.
For security we do not release the nature of the solution/s.
It is criminally negligent to publish hacks on the web without first notifying the author.

Let us know if you have a question.

On top of the veiled legal threat (which I love!), their comment that they do not release the nature of the solution is baffling.. more-so that they do this “for security”. Vendors, take note: the one time you want to be completely open and honest with information is when it comes to solutions to vulnerabilities. Withholding information or making it unclear/confusing only contributes to insecurity as customers don’t know the extent of the issue, nor how to easily mitigate the vulnerability.

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