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Security vuln auction site pulls in research

Alternative market attracts 150 listings

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A controversial marketplace for security exploits and vulnerabilities said it has exceeded expectations with the submission of more than 150 vulnerabilities in its first two months of operations.

WabiSabiLabi encourages security researchers to sell their findings to vetted buyers. Herman Zampariolo, chief exec of WSLabi which runs the WabiSabiLabi marketplace, said that the quality of the submitted vulnerabilities is as important as their quantity.

Vulnerabilities on the marketplace have had selling prices ranging between 100 to 15,000 euros each. So far 1,000 sellers (researchers) have registered on the site.

The types of vulnerabilities that have made it on to the marketplace include 51 bugs in Windows, 19 flaws in Linux, 29 web application vulnerabilities and two Mac-related flaws. Bugs in enterprise apps have also made an appearance with 10 flaws in enterprise software from SAP and one IBM-related vulnerability. Not all vulnerabilities submitted make it onto the marketplace. So far, WabiSabiLabi has rejected 40 for reasons including the use of "illegal methodology", such as reverse engineering on protected software. Only previously unpublished vulnerabilities are eligible for auction by WabiSabiLabi. In addition the Swiss firm does not accept vulnerabilities that apply to bespoke software.

WSLabi verifies the vulnerability research submitted to it before offering it for sale online. The firm advises researchers how best to auction their research on its site. Only two-thirds of submitted vulnerabilities have successfully passed through its vetting process, WSLabi reports.

"The number of vulnerabilities on the marketplace proves that WSLabi is providing an alternative legal outlet for vulnerabilities, it is diverting research from being used for illegal purposes and generating regular and legitimate revenue for researchers," said security researcher and defacement archive Zone-h co-founder Roberto Preatoni.

The launch of WSLabi marketplace marks a further evolution in the increasing complex market for security research and vulnerability information.

Some security firms try to get an edge over their rivals by paying independent security researchers for bugs they find, defences against which are added to their security products and notification services, thereby boosting their appeal. The approach was first widely applied by iDefense, but has since been taken up by other firms including Immunity and 3Com's TippingPoint division. Payments vary but tend to max out at around $10,000. ®

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