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End-users overwhelmingly support the full disclosure of security vulnerabilities, according to a recent survey by analysts Hurwitz Group, which demonstrates widespread frustration about vendor responsiveness to security issues.

Based on interviews with more than 300 software security professionals, the report shows that end users overwhelmingly support full disclosure - announcing security vulnerabilities as soon as they are discovered. The end users surveyed for the report are clearly angry that vendors are releasing insecure applications, and then not responding when flaws are detected, Hurwtiz reports.

"They see full disclosure in public forums and in the press as the only way to force vendors to respond to vulnerabilities caused by poorly written and insecure code. In fact, end users overwhelmingly support full disclosure even if it means exposing security flaws within their organisation that could have a negative impact on their company," it writes.

The research also shows that most end users want the information published and many want it published immediately. A full 39 per cent of respondents said that vulnerabilities should be disclosed upon discovery, with another 28 per cent wanting disclosure within one week.

The study undermines attempts by vendors, most notably Microsoft, to create a charter for the "responsible disclosure" of information of security vulnerabilities which would restrict the release of information about bugs. According to this line of thinking, disclosure should be delayed by up 30 days to give software vendors time to patch a system.

To openly discuss exploits of software bugs is leading to "information anarchy" and undermining Internet security, according to Microsoft. Three out of four security software professionals disagree, Hurwitz finds.

The study indicates a mounting frustration with users about security problems - and the general quality - of computer software. Users may soon seek to use the law to punish software vendors for these problems, Hurwitz suggests.

In the past, end users have had limited legal options, since product liability laws currently protect software vendors, but this may soon end, Hurwitz believes.

"Companies are so angry that they are now willing to take vendors to court," said Pete Lindstrom, Director of Security Strategies at Hurwitz Group. "I think we will soon see test cases in the courts to try to develop some requirements and standards for vendors. It will be interesting to see whether those cases will be successful, and whether standards will ultimately solve the problem for end users." ®

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Who's Liable for Security Bugs? Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place with Full Disclosure, report by Hurwitz Group

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