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Apr 24 2012

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cheap?

Michal Zalewski (aka lcamtuf) has just announced that google is changing the terms of its vulnerability purchase program. The google announcement says:

Today, to celebrate the success of [the program] and to underscore our commitment to security, we are rolling out updated rules for our program — including new reward amounts for critical bugs:

  • $20,000 for qualifying vulnerabilities that the reward panel determines will allow code execution on our production systems.
  • $10,000 for SQL injection and equivalent vulnerabilities; and for certain types of information disclosure, authentication, and authorization bypass bugs.
  • Up to $3,133.7 for many types of XSS, XSRF, and other high-impact flaws in highly sensitive applications.

Interestingly, the earlier part of the announcement says that the existing program resulted in:

“over 780 qualifying vulnerability reports that span across the hundreds of Google-developed services, as well as the software written by fifty or so companies that we have acquired. In just over a year, the program paid out around $460,000 to roughly 200 individuals.”

So, depending upon how you do the arithmetic, over the last year google paid out around $590 per vulnerability, or around $2300 per researcher. Whatever your views on the merits or otherwise of paying for vulnerabilities, that strikes me as pretty cheap, in all senses of the word.

As an aside, I found it amusing that the first commenter on the google posting was one Andrew Wallace, who styles himself an “Independent Consultant”. Wallace has been making a nuisance of himself around various security related mail lists and web fora for a while now. He used to post as “n3td3v” or latterly, as “Andrew from n3td3v”. Back in July 2010, Wallace labelled the google researcher Tavis Ormandy a “cyber terrorist” following Ormandy’s rather public disclosure of a nasty vulnerability he believed Microsoft were trying to hide. Interested (or bored) readers are invited to search the ‘net for Andrew Wallace, n3td3v.

It is also worth recording that as a result of Ormandy’s (some may say “premature”) disclosure in June 2010, after an initial furious response from Mike Reavey, Head of MSRC, Microsoft went on to devise and publish a new “Coordinated Vulnerability Disclosure” policy (warning, MS docx format document) covering the disclosure of “zero day” vulnerabilities in other vendor’s products.

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