Secunia To Handle Vulnerability Reporting Pain


Secunia is offering an alternative to bug bounties, by handling the vulnerability reporting process

Secunia is offering to help security researchers after it launched a program to help co-ordinate the entire vulnerability disclosure process.

Researchers can submit software vulnerabilities discovered in off-the-shelf products to the Secunia Vulnerability Coordination Reward Program, Secunia said 2 November.

Flaws in online services and web applications do not qualify, according to the company. Under the program, Secunia will validate the researchers’ findings and handle the disclosure with the vendors on their behalf.

The Middle Man

While many organisations offer bug-bounty programs to pay researchers for vulnerabilities they uncover, there are many more that don’t offer any rewards beyond acknowledging the researcher who discovered the bug when announcing the patch.

Many researchers also want an independent third-party to confirm the vulnerability and to handle the back-and-forth with the vendor to get the issue resolved. Under Secunia’s program, researchers would designate the Danish company as the point-of-contact with the vendor.

“The fun part of vulnerability research is the actual process of discovering and understanding the vulnerabilities as well as creating proof of concepts or exploits – and not the sometimes extensive coordination and liaison process that follows” to fix the problem, said Carsten Eiram, chief security specialist at Secunia.

Any researcher who discovered a software vulnerability can sign up with the SVCRP, provided that the vulnerability was found in the stable and most recent version of the product. The product also has to be actively supported by the vendor and the vulnerability disclosed cannot be already publicly known, Secunia said. The program does not require researchers to provide a working exploit for the security flaw.

After Secunia’s team has independently verified the vulnerability, the researcher will receive non-monetary rewards from the company. Secunia would then handle future communication with the vendor to disclose the issue, provide detailed information on the problem, work with the vendor to identify a fix and test the patch to ensure the issue has been resolved. Working with Secunia would also add weight to the researcher’s findings because it had been independently corroborated, Secunia said.

“We will both confirm vulnerability discoveries and handle the coordination process, allowing researchers to focus on the more exciting aspects of vulnerability research,” Eiram said.

Bug Bounties

The new program joins the ranks of similar initiatives such as HP TippingPoint’s Zero Day Initiative and Verisign’s iDefense Labs Vulnerability Contributor Program. ExploitHub also launched a new program for researchers to develop exploits for a dozen client-side vulnerabilities in Microsoft Internet Explorer and Adobe Flash Player in October. With these programs, researchers don’t have to deal with vendor-disclosure policies or the inevitable back-and-forth communication to get the flaws fixed.

Secunia does not plan to compete with the other programs, but to serve as a “complementary service,” according to Eiram. For many of these programs where researchers are paid bounties, vendors are “very selective” about the kind of vulnerabilities they would accept, Eiram said. Secunia fills the gap for those researchers who discover vulnerabilities that don’t fit vendor requirements but still should be disclosed and addressed.

Secunia had coordinated vulnerability disclosures for some researchers on an “informal basis” in the past, according to Eiram. The program formalizes the process to encourage more researchers to participate, he said.

Secunia would not offer cash, but will offer various kinds of merchandise and passes to conferences, the company said. Secunia will also offer special prizes for researchers who reported the most interesting vulnerabilities and the one who submitted the best-quality reports throughout the year.

Theoretically, security researchers would continue to receive payments they are entitled to receive directly from the vendor even if the vulnerability was reported through Secunia’s program. However, some companies, such as Google, explicitly state within their program guidelines that vulnerabilities disclosed through brokers and other third-party programs may not be eligible to receive a bounty.

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