Like any circle in any industry, having good professional relationships can be valuable to involved parties. In the world of security, more specifically Vulnerability Databases (VDBs), the relationships we maintain benefit the community behind the scenes. Like ogres and onions, there are layers.
Someone from CVE and someone from OSVDB run an informal list called ‘Vulnerability Information Managers’ (VIM) for discussion of vulnerabilities as relates to post-disclosure issues. New information comes up, additional research, vendor confirmations, vendor disputes and more. It’s a great resource for us to discuss the details that help each VDB fine-tune their information. (No new vulnerabilities are posted there, don’t bother)
In addition, some of the VDBs have stronger relationships that allow for great dialogue and information sharing. A few examples of these, from OSVDB’s perspective:
- A couple of the CVE guys are great for very informal chat about vulnerabilities. Despite being the dreaded “government contractors”, they are respectable, very knowledgeable and have a great sense of humor. I just sent one a mail with the subject “PROVENANCE BITCHEZ?!” challenging him on the details of a given CVE. They are so nice, I broke my rule of not taking candy from strangers and happily accepted the bag of leftover candy from their BlackHat booth. Joking aside, the ability to coordinate and share information is incredible and a testament to their integrity and desire to help the industry.
- OSVDB uses Secunia for one of our feeds to gather information. The two guys we regularly have contact with (CE & TK) lead a bright team that does an incredible amount of work behind the scenes. In case it slipped your attention, Secunia actually validates vulnerabilities before posting them. That means they take the time to install, configure and test a wide range of software based on the word of 3l1t3hax0ry0 that slapped some script tag in software you never heard of, as well as testing enterprise-level software that costs more than OSVDB makes in five years. Behind the scenes, Secunia shares information as they can with others, and there is a good chance you will never see it. If you aren’t subscribed to their service as a business, you should be. For those who asked OSVDB for years to have a ‘vulnerability alerting’ service; you can blame Secunia for us not doing it. They do it a lot better than we could ever hope to.
- The head of R&D at Tenable contributes a lot of time and information to VIM based on his research of disclosed vulnerabilities. Installing the software, configuring, testing and sometimes noticing additional vulnerabilities. He is a frequent contributor to VIM and has worked with OSVDB on sharing information to enhance the Nessus plugins as well as the OSVDB database.
- str0ke, that mysterious guy that somehow manages to run milw0rm in his spare time. What may appear to some as a website with user-posted content, is actually a horrible burden to maintain. Since the site’s inception, str0ke has not just posted the exploits sent in, but he has taken time to sanity check every single one as best he can. What you don’t see on that site are dozens (hundreds?) of exploits a month that were sent in but ended up being incorrect (or as OSVDB would label, “myth/fake”). When str0ke was overwhelmed and decided to give up the project, user demand (read: whining & complaints) lead him to change his mind and keep it going. Make sure you thank him every so often for his work and know this: milw0rm cannot be replaced as easily as you think. Not to the quality that we have seen from str0ke.
Since we have no corporate overlords, I’ll go ahead and talk about the flip side briefly:
- ISS (now IBM) runs a good database. Very thorough, keen to detail on including original source and vendor information. In 2004, the head of that group (AF) left, and until that time, we had a great dialogue and open communication. Since then, even before the IBM frenzy, we’ve mostly gotten the cold shoulder when mailing. Even when pointing out problems or negative changes on their side. LJ, bring back the old days!
- NVD. Why do you waste taxpayer money with that ‘database’? We pay $22 for Booz Allen Hamilton to “analyze” each CVE entry (thanks FOIA request!), yet they find a fraction of the typos and mistakes I do? By fraction, I mean exactly none from what I hear through the grape vine (DHS cronies are cool). If you can’t notice and report simple typos in a CVE, and you botch CVSS2 scores left and right (yes, I’ve mailed in corrections that were acted on), what exactly are you doing with our money? Are you the virtual Blackwater of VDBs?
- SecurityFocus / BID. Sorry, not going to bother with verbal fluffing. My countless mails pointing out errors and issues with your database are seemingly dumped to a black hole. Your promises of certain mail archives ‘not changing’ were pure fantasy. To this date you make erroneous assumptions about affected products, and still don’t grasp “case sensitive”. I know some of your team, you have great people there. Just lift the corporate policy that turns them into virtual shut-ins, please?
Sorry to end it on a downer. I still dream of a niche of the security industry (VDBs) where we can all play well with each other.
I’m big on Vulnerability Database (VDB) evolution. I tend to harp on them for not adding features, not making the data more accessible and generally doing the exact same thing they did ten years ago. While the target of my ire is typically functionality or usability, today it is about a little more.
Last night I wanted to check for details on a CVE entry that was rather vague and had a single reference to BID. This is fairly common in the VDB world as one database will add an entry and not provide a link to the source of the data (Secunia and BID primarily). As luck would have it, BID was down. Almost twelve hours later and their VDB is still down. What annoys me is that while they aren’t delivering vulnerability information, they sure are delivering advertisements. Why can’t VDBs get the same dedication and resources that ad farms get?
Next, I wanted to find out if the other VDBs created an entry for the latest OpenBSD flap yet, so I went to X-force which is a pretty reliable database. Much to my dismay, it appears that the ‘advanced’ search is now gone. While it wasn’t extremely powerful, it let you do some basic sorting that was immensely helpful in finding what you need. I have mail out to them asking for confirmation that it is indeed gone versus a web geek error. I certainly hope it is the latter…
Update: Over 24 hours later, the BID database is finally available again. ISS has not replied to at least two mails from VDB managers asking about the missing advanced search feature.
I’m so far behind in my daily routine and missed Thomas Ptacek’s post on Vuln Research In Numbers. Fortunately, Dave Aitel referenced the blog entry which prompted me to check it out. I so desperately want Ptacek to run his numbers against a complete OSVDB data set, but alas, I know that we do not have a complete data set for 2004. Symantec’s BID database has some problems with consistancy, citing sources (aka provenance) and missing vulnerabilities (which plagues most VDBs to one degree or another). In my mind, OSVDB tends to be more complete than most VDBs and maintains a creditee field, but due to a lack of volunteers we just don’t have enough entries public for him to do the same generation of statistics. Some day maybe! Until then, this is a very neat post with a different slant.