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A group of 11 of the largest software companies and computer security firms released the first public draft of a proposed bug disclosure standard on Wednesday, and asked the security community for comments.

The 37-page document sets out a detailed timeline for security vulnerability reporting, and standardizes the interactions between security researchers who find bugs and the software companies who write them. The group hopes to see the final version of the plan gain widespread industry acceptance.

"The meat of it is all about the process -- how people come around to handling everything where they can talk to each other," says Scott Blake, a VP at security software firm BindView, an OIS member.

The OIS officially formed in September of last year, but has its roots in a private Microsoft-hosted security conference held in Silicon Valley almost a year earlier. Member companies are Microsoft, @stake, BindView, SCO, Foundstone, Guardent, Internet Security Systems, Network Associates, Oracle, SGI and Symantec. (Symantec publishes SecurityFocus.)

A chief objective of the organization is to encourage a limited form of public warning that withholds details useful to hackers.

To that end, the plan would curtail the common but controversial practice of publicly releasing proof-of-concept or "exploit" code that demonstrates a security hole. Researchers following the policy would not be able to release exploits, nor provide "detailed technical information such as exact data inputs, buffer offsets, or shell code strategies" to the general public.

That prohibition is loosened somewhat thirty days after the vendor releases a patch. At that point the bug-finder could distribute exploit code or technical details to "organizations such as academic institutions that perform research into secure software development techniques."

Whether or not that includes popular forums and mailing lists like Bugtraq, NTBugtraq and Full Disclosure is a gray area, says Blake, that the group deliberately left open to interpretation.

"It's one of the areas I suspect we're going to get comments on," Blake says. "That's one of the reasons we're putting this thing out for public comment, because we want people to come back with that kind of feedback."

The group is accepting comments by e-mail for thirty days, ending July 4th, and expects to release the final plan at the Black Hat Conference in Las Vegas later that month. © SecurityFocus

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