Conspiracy theories abound in security mailing list launch

Fighting Vikings

Danish security service outfit Secunia this week launched an independent mailing list for security vulnerabilities.

Secunia makes no bones in saying that its Security Advisories mailing list initiative is a direct attack against competitor SecurityFocus. The Danes are highly critical of SecurityFocus and security clearing house CERT. And they hope that their Secunia mailing list will replace at the "one source of information regarding the latest vulnerabilities and the security patches released by vendors".

The Secunia Security Advisories list is based on more than 200 different sources of security information, including VulnWatch and Full-Disclosure. All the advisories on the Secunia Security Advisories list are written, verified and qualified by Secunia staff based on security research made by the security community and Secunia's own security staff.

Thomas Kristensen, CTO of Secunia, says: "At Secunia we feel that SecurityFocus has betrayed the community it used to serve so loyally, that's why we started Secunia".

SecurityFocus and CERT deliberately "delays and censors the information disclosed on BugTraq and in their vulnerability database," Secunia alleges.

Symantec acquired SecurityFocus last year in a move greeted by suspicion in some segments of the security community. SecurityFocus is run as a separate organisation, Symantec tells us (most recently when we quizzed it about its handling of early alerts on the Slammer worm). The reason for any delay is attributed soley to the time needed by the list's moderators to review information, Symantec says.

In the case of CERT the more valid criticism appears to be that the organisation is not doing enough to keep sensitive information confidential. eWeek reports that CERT is to review its security disclosure policy following the leak of three (actually four) unpublished security advisories in recent days.

The leaked information, taken from advance copies of advisories on cryptographic weakness in the popular Kerberos protocol, Open SSL vulnerabilities and a flaw in a Sun library, made its way onto full disclosure mailing lists ahead of patch availability.

eWeek publishes a timeline on the premature disclosure of these serious vulnerabilities. The anonymous cracker had been in touch with us to say that he's since posted a fourth (less serious flaw) onto a full disclosure mailing list. His motives remain unclear.

But back to the main point.

Secunia's strident criticism is premised on the idea that their needs to be a single source for security information in order for security to improve. This ignores the point that people in the community get their information from numerous sources (BugTraq, CERT, and yes Secunia, security blogs, news sites, vendor sites etc. etc.)

If Secunia does a good job of informing people, then people will gravitate towards its free service. Meanwhile let a thousand flowers of free information bloom. ®

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