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Re: Two MSIE 6.0/7.0 NULL pointer crashes
From: mrx <mrx () propergander org uk>
Date: Thu, 21 Jan 2010 09:31:02 +0000

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Michal Zalewski wrote:
Testing takes time.  That's why both Microsoft and Mozilla test.

Testing almost never legitimately takes months or years, unless the
process is severely broken; contrary to the popular claims,
personally, I have serious doubts that QA is a major bottleneck when
it comes to security response - certainly not as often as portrayed.

The generalization made earlier in this thread - that closed source
projects are always bad when it comes to security response, while the
open source community is inherently responsive - does not even deserve
a proper rebuttal. I am cc:ed on quite a few open security bugs in
major open source software - and when a problem is kept under wraps,
it is not unheard of to wait 6-12 months for a fix.

Both in the open source and in the closed source world, the real story
is almost always that the security issues you report need to be
prioritized against hundreds of other internally discovered security
problems; and thousands of high-priority but non-security bugs that
affect market adoption or annoy key customers. On top of this, many
security changes may require significant rewrites that the vendor is
hesitant to implement because of having no resources or no long-term
plan to do so.

In other words, in many cases, most of the waiting period is a
prolonged no-op that may serves no legitimate function, and may be
putting users at an unreasonable risk.

Even without assuming malice on the side of the vendor, this
demonstrates an inherent weakness of the "responsible disclosure"
process (understood as accepting arbitrary vendor-provided disclosure
timelines): while some vendors are quite willing to give security
issues top priority, and will actually work to get things done -
others may exploit the rhetoric to mask staffing problems or the
inability to drive engineering decisions effectively.

Cheers,
/mz


Thank you for the insights Michal.
I accept my comment was a little glib, however it has been my experience
that open source vulnerabilities of this magnitude that are in the wild
are usually fixed in a day or two by the OS community whereas large closed
source developers can take weeks or longer to release a fix for such
flaws.

Perhaps this is due, at least in part, to the modularity and separation of
function in OSS and being able to a personally identify the developer of a
vulnerable OS project. Also a single person or small team can act more
efficiently on known code. Where as in a large corporate closed software
development environment where an application carries so many dependencies
on evolving and legacy code, where the person responsible for introducing
the vulnerability is not publicly identifiable can lead to all kinds of
denial, excuses and buck passing.

Perhaps I am a little naive, after all I am a novice in this field which I
am not afraid to admit. But it seems to me with large closed source projects
developed in commercial corporate environments the object of the exercise is
to get product out first regardless of the quality of the released code.
And only if a vulnerability is a threat to adoption of a product is that
vulnerability dealt with in a timely fashion.


regards
mrx


- --
Mankind's systems are white sticks tapping walls.
Thanks Roy
http://www.propergander.org.uk
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