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Oracle in war of words with security researcher

'What David Litchfield has done is put our customers at risk'

SANS - Survey on application security programs

Litchfield notified the database maker of the issue in October, stating that the fix is fairly straightforward. On Wednesday, he posted a workaround for the vulnerability on SecurityFocus' BugTraq mailing list.

However, Oracle said it studied the workaround proposed by Litchfield and found it inadequate. The configuration changes have at least five technical problems that could cause problems for some applications, Oracle's Harris said. He recommended that any customer that considers deploying the workaround first test it on a non-production server.

The release of details regarding the vulnerability has put more pressure on the company, he said.

"Exploits could be generated using the details provided in a short amount of time," Harris said. "We are still making an analysis. If we feel the risk is significant, we will release a one-off patch much as Microsoft did with the recent WMF patch."

The Apache module, which contains the flaw, allows Web applications to use the Procedural Language/Structured Query Language (PL/SQL) to dynamically create database calls. The code has security weaknesses that have been perennial sources of problems for the database maker. Oracle has patched various issues found by NGSSoftware four times, and each time, the company finds a way around the patch, Litchfield said.

"It has been four years and Oracle has not fixed this simple thing," Litchfield said. "It was trivial to find, and because the functions have had bugs in the past, people are looking at this."

Other security professionals have also taken Oracle to task for its troubles in effectively handling security researcher and vulnerability disclosure.

"I think Oracle does have some work ahead of it in working better with security researchers," Michael Sutton, director of research for iDefense, a subsidiary of VeriSign, said following the Black Hat presentation. "It is embarrassing for the vendor and bad for users that the same problem has been patched (unsuccessfully) four times. If the vendor and researcher collaborated more closely, this problem would be solved."

While other companies, especially Microsoft, have gotten much better at working with security researchers, Oracle continues to have problems, he said.

This article was originally published at SecurityFocus.

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