Updated Security researchers irked by how Microsoft responded to Google engineer Tavis Ormany’s public disclosure of a zero-day Windows XP Help Center security bug have banded together to form a group called the Microsoft Spurned Researcher Collective*.
The group is forming a “union” in the belief that together they will be better placed to handle flak from Redmond and elsewhere following the publication of security flaws. A statement, published by The Windows Club blog, explains the Collective’s stance.
“Due to hostility toward security researchers, the most recent example being of Tavis Ormandy, a number of us from the industry (and some not from the industry) have come together to form MSRC: the Microsoft-Spurned Researcher Collective,” it said. “MSRC will fully disclose vulnerability information discovered in our free time, free from retaliation against us or any inferred employer.”
Last week the researcher published a zero day flaw affecting Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. The unpatched security bug creates a means for hackers to crash affected systems and stems from a security bug in the Windows kernel. Vupen Security, which published an advisory on the flaw but is not part of the collective (Contrary to early versions of this story, Vupen rates the vulnerability only as a moderate risk bug because it doesn’t lend itself to remote execution.)
The debate about responsible disclosure of security vulnerabilities is as old as software development. Security researchers argue that by disclosing problems they give end-users a chance to act and put pressure to act on software developers, who might otherwise be tempted to ignore the problem. Software developers (including Oracle, Adobe and many others as well as MS) argue that disclosing vulnerabilities in the absence of a fix imperils users.
To some outside either camp the argument hinges on whether a vulnerability is been actively exploited. The length of time a vendor has had to fix a bug – a period that can sometimes run into months – is also an important factor. ®
* The name of the group is an obvious send-up of Redmond’s own Microsoft Security Response Centre.