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Moore's the modern Weegee

'Credit hole by HD Moore the famous'

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As of this writing, Moore is up to number 22 in his list of bugs, with several to come. The majority (19 out of 22) are found in the "known to be armed and dangerous" Internet Explorer 6; most exist on a fully patched Windows XP Service Pack 2 box, but a couple can be found on a Windows 2000 Service Pack 4 machine, and a few even require the presence of Office 2003 or Outlook.

One bug each can be found on Firefox 1.5.0.2 on Linux (it's been fixed in 1.5.0.3, however), Safari on Mac OS X 10.4.7, and Konqueror 3.5.1 on Linux. None for Opera 9 have been found so far, so if you're looking for a browser that appears to withstand fuzz testing, that may be the one.

Moore warned the browser makers about the bugs he had found, so why the Month of Browser Bugs project? Because the response of several vendors seemed too slow to him. By publicly releasing information about the bugs he has found, Moore hopes to create public awareness, certainly, but also undoubtedly the result would shame Microsoft (mostly) and Apple and KDE (a little) into fixing their problems.

Microsoft doesn't like what Moore is doing, that much is certain. The company criticised Moore's apparent failure to engage in what the company calls a "responsible disclosure of vulnerabilities".

I would imagine that Apple isn't too happy either, given the hyper-paranoid atmosphere of that company. As for KDE, like most open source projects, I have the feeling that the developers pretty much said, "Another bug? OK, let's roll up our sleeves and fix it!"

What are we to make of Moore's Month of Browser Bugs? Is he a thoughtless miscreant, exposing flaws to the world that can now be used by bad guys while failing to give the software makers enough time to fix their mistakes? Should we pilory him for exposing too much dirty laundry, and castigate him for irresponsible behavior by a so-called security professional?

Not in my book.

Moore deserves praise from the security community for helping educate us about fuzzers and their applicability to the world of web browsers. The problems he's detailing will hopefully aid more security people, IT managers, and even users to realise that it's long past time to dump Internet Explorer for something safer and more reasonably coded, maintained, and updated.

In addition, the fact that security issues have gotten so rampant and out of control paradoxically mandates just the actions that Moore is taking. We've all been patient for far too long. The neverending flood of security issues that we've seen over the last few years - a deluge that shows no signs of abatement - has long since passed the scary stage, sailed right on by the anger phase, and is now approaching grotesque farce.

How are we supposed to take Microsoft's claims that it "has made fuzzing part of its Software Development Lifecycle and runs the tools, not just against browsers, but its other software as well"? As what? A sick joke?

If the company - which just posted sales of $11.8bn for the last quarter, up more than $1.5bn from last year - is using fuzzers against IE, then why is HD Moore consistently finding flaws in that same software using those same tools? Give me a break.

And if you think the bad guys were clueless about these vulnerabilities until Moore started publicising them, well, you sadly underestimate the intelligence and work ethic of the black hats out there.

Moore himself reports that he's already received an email from someone in Russia complaining that he revealed a hole that the Russian cracker had been exploiting. Pockets of criminals already know about this stuff, so if Moore's actions finally embarrass the browser makers into fixing their problems, then we're all better off.

If Microsoft (and Apple and KDE and the Mozilla Project too...but mostly Microsoft) can't get its act together enough to find these flaws using free and open source tools, then I say to Moore, more power to you.

Moore is our modern Weegee for the age of software flaws, using the tools of immediate publishing on the web to reveal to the world the truth about security in modern web browsers. That truth sure is ugly and unpleasant at times, and it certainly damages the business interests of companies (who perhaps deserve to have their business interests damaged), but the world needs to hear it.

Weegee used to tell people to "Credit photo by Weegee the famous." Maybe it's time to start labeling vulnerabilities the same way: "Credit hole by HD Moore the famous." He deserves it.

This article originally appeared in Security Focus.

Copyright © 2006, SecurityFocus

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