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RE: Pentester convicted..
From: "Sahir Hidayatullah" <sahirh () mielesecurity com>
Date: Thu, 11 May 2006 11:30:06 +0530

From TFA there are two cases:

1. Eric McCarty - Looks like he went ahead, accessed personal information
including SSN's and then anonymously mailed them to a secfocus reporter.
Personally, I don't see that this was the correct approach. He had no
business actually accessing the records (this was a SQL injection hack, it's
easy enough to confirm the lack of input validation without dumping tables).
furthermore, he dug himself in deeper by mailing the information to a
reporter instead of the legitimate authorities. What he should have done is
a) confirmed the vuln in the least invasive way possible and then b)
contacted the OWNER of the system and worked with them. If they'd busted him
after that it would've been weird -- but you're talking about someone
gaining unauthorized access to private information, forwarding it to a third
party, and then crying fowl when he gets into trouble. "Professional
security tester" -- I don't think so! To use the well flogged banking
analogy - he robbed the vault, gave the swag to someone else to prove he did
it, and then whined when the cops broke down the door. No pity from me!

2. Bret McDanel - An EX-employee goes and emails information about a
security flaw to the CUSTOMERS of his previous company. The details are
murky, but it appears he sent the mail through the company email system. If
he had repeatedly been raising concerns about this security risk and they
were not addressed, then he would be justified in going public; the article
however, does not mention this anywhere. One assumes that he didn't inform
his previous employer about the flaw before notifying the customers. Once
again, it's ridiculous to expect any sort of gratitude for this -- business
ethics notwithstanding.

The keyword here is UNAUTHORIZED access. When are we going to stop condoning
system intrusions as some sort of noble whitehat effort when it's apparent
to anyone with a shred of common sense that the 'whitehat' wasn't interested
in following a proper escalation process for the flaw?


Sahir Hidayatullah.


-----Original Message-----
From: William Hancock [mailto:bill.hancock () isthmusgroup com] 
Sent: Wednesday, May 10, 2006 7:50 PM
To: pen-test () securityfocus com
Subject: Pentester convicted..

Hey there pen-testers, take this with a grain of salt, it just got me
excited.  I am really interested in everyones opinion on the matter or
corporate responsibility and ownership.

In an article posted to slashdot today
(http://it.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/05/10/112259&from=rss) a man
has been convicted of hacking when he casually and helpfully reported a
security vulnerability to the owners of a web site, in this case The
University of Southern California.  It reads like it was some sort of
simple SQL injection and upon gleaning the information he reported it.

What are we to do as a community I ask?  We should we, the good guys,
who are paid for our knowledge and ability to exploit mistakes,
oversights, and weaknesses then professionally report them to aid in the
securing of information capital (or anyone who reports the flaw for that
matter) worry about prosecution.  It lends itself to a forcing the
technical community to sit on their laurels and wait for the people who
don't report issues to exploit them.  Further it sounds very clear that
had he not notified them, they would have never known.

A security pro notices a flaw, checks to make sure he is not on crack by
'flipping a bit', deems the threat viable and is likely to be exploited,
notifies the owners, then get arrested and charged with unauthorized
access.  We, as a or even The security community, should push
corporations, governments, and organized body's to take responsibility
and ownership of their problems.  If they publish a site that is flawed
or exposing information then they are authorizing the retrieval of that
information.  I'm not advocating that they laws should allow any jerk to
try and brute his or her way in to a public or private web site, but
come on.

If someone leaves their wallet in the park with no guard or protection,
I pick it up and bring it back to the owner, the owner didn't want me to
have it but I brought it back to him.  Why in the hell should I have to
go to jail for returning it to him, why should I/we be punished for
doing the right thing?

I acknowledge this to be a rant but there must but some way to insist
that when people make something available to the public that it is their
responsibility to safeguard it and appreciate not persecute someone who
let's them know (for free I might add) that a weakness exists.  This is
simple scapegoating, the University did something not advisable as a
good practice and instead of owning up to it they villafied a
professional pen-tester for offering valid advice.



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