French security researcher fined

Reverse engineering guillotined

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A French court has ruled that security researcher Guillaume Tena acted unlawfully in publishing proof of concept code to highlight security flaws in ViGuard, an antivirus product, from French company Tegam.

Tena was given a suspended fine of €5,000 ($6,700 or £3,480) in a case that could have big implications for security research in France.

Four years ago Tena (AKA Guillermito) released proof of concept code to highlight security bypass and worm evasion flaws in ViGuard. He produced exploits showing that Tegam's generic anti-virus failed to stop "100 per cent of known and unknown viruses" as claimed. Tena posted his findings to a French Usenet newsgroup in the summer of 2001 before re-publishing the research on a website in March 2002.

Tegamd denounced Tena as a 'terrorist', and sent in the lawyers. In June 2002, Tena was prosecuted over alleged violations of French copyright law. Tegam argued a warez version of its software was used in Tena's tests and claimed that he decompiled or disassembled ViGuard and distributed part of its source code on his website. Tena denies these accusations. Tegam claims tens of thousands of ViGuard users in France. However, the product is little used outside the country.

The case against Tena came to trial at a Tribunal correctionnel in Paris in January. A verdict - returned this week - found against the security researcher, who will be fined €5,000 if he re-offends within the next five years. Tegam is seeking damages against Tena in a separate civil case, due in court on 12 April.

Although Tena's sentence could have been much more severe, French security researchers are alarmed at the potential impact of the case. "This ruling means publishing a security vulnerability or a proof of concept using reverse engineering or disassembly is now illegal in France," Chaouki Bekrar, a security consultant at K-OTik Security Research, told El Reg. ®

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Related links

Tegam Vs. Tena Write-up of the case by K-OTik Security

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