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In the exploit biz? FULL DISCLOSURE is your best friend, boffin says

You don't need no broker, you just need game (theory)

Alfonso De Gregorio / Darren Pauli

Auscert Security bod Alfonso De Gregorio says buyers and sellers in the cut-throat exploit marketplace should release their zero-days to the public if they are fleeced.

The BeeWise founder says full disclosure of security vulnerabilities helps punish both buyers who fail to pay or on-sell zero-days, and sellers who break contracts and re-sell exclusive exploits to multiple parties.

De Gregorio derives his conclusions from a series of game theories which he outlined at the AusCERT 2015 conference this week.

“Zero-day markets can achieve cooperation even in absence of trusted-third parties,” De Gregorio says, referring to the current system of exploit brokers and vulnerability research firms like Vupen.

“Buyers and sellers should consider punishing defection to promote cooperation by either closing alternative deals for the zero day or publishing the zero day in order to negate the value to the exploiter.

“In order to place these recommendations on firmer scientific grounds experimental verification needs to be carried out.”

De Gregorio says dropping zero-day to the Full Disclosure mailing list is no longer about obtaining hacker “bragging rights” and is a legitimate and important means of maintaining cooperation through punishment in the exploit marketplaces.

He says zero-day buyers and sellers appear to lack what he says is an essential platform to burn exploits in the event deals sour.

Such a platform would need to guarantee anonymity and allow rapid publication of exploits to the internet such that it limits the opportunity for scamming buyers or sellers to cash in.

The platform could also help shed light on the secretive nation-state exploit traders, he says.

De Gregorio who is researching economic models for exploit selling says his work could be applied to the white and grey -hat markets where zero day vulnerabilities can be sold for bounties or kept undisclosed as part of a penetration tester's hacking arsenal.

His work covers the Ultimatum Game, variations of The Prisoner's Dilemma and the '0-Day Dilemma', including iterated, MAD, adaptive, and submissive variations, and Zero Determinant strategies.

De Gregorio explains the theories and the optimal outcome for buyers and sellers in his talk. ®

Click here to download audio of De Gregorio's talk. Change slides about every five to 10 seconds to keep up.

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