Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Where's my 0day, please?

A site I was recently monitoring disappeared these days, so I feel it's about time I blog on this case. I have been talking about the emerging market for software vulnerabilities for quite some time, and it's quite a success to come across that the concept has been happening right there in front of us. Check out the screenshots. The International Exploits Shop I came across to looks like this :

It appears to be down now, while it has simply changed its location to somewhere else. Google no longer has it cached, and the the only info on this wisely registered .in domain, can be found at Koffix Blocker's site.

A lot of people underestimate the power of the over-the-counter(OTC), market for 0day security vulnerabilities. Given that there isn't any vulnerabilities auction in place that would provide a researcher with multiple proposals, and the buyers with a much greater choice or even social networking with the idea to possibly attract skilled HR, the seller is making personal propositions with the idea to get higher exposure from the site's visitors. Whoever is buying the exploit and whatever happens with it doesn't seem to bother the seller in this case.

As there's been already emerging competition between different infomediaries that purchase vulnerabilities information and pay the researchers, researchers themselves are getting more and more interested in hearing from "multiple parties". Turning vulnerability research, and its actual findings into an IP, and offering financial incentives is tricky, and no pioneers are needed in here!

There's been a lot of active discussion among friends, and over the Net. I recently came across a great and very recent research entitled "Vulnerability markets - what is the economic value of a zero-day exploit?", by Rainer Boehme, that's worth the read. Basically, it tries to list all the market models and possible participants, such as :

Bug challenges
- Bug challenges are the simplest and oldest form of vulnerability markets, where the producer offers a monetary reward for reported bugs. There are some real-world examples for bug challenges. Most widely known is Donald E. Knuth’s reward of initially 1.28 USD for each bug in his TEX typesetting system, which grows exponentially with the number of years the program is in use. Other examples include the RSA factoring challenge, or the shady SDMI challenge on digital audio watermarking

Bug auctions
-Bug auctions are theoretical framework for essentially the same concept as bug
challenges. Andy Ozment [9] first formulated bug challenges in the terms of auction theory,
in particular as a reverse Dutch auction, or an open first-price ascending auction. This allowed him to draw on a huge body of literature and thus add a number of eciency enhancements to the original concept. However, the existence of this market type still depends on the initiative of the vendor

Vulnerability brokers
-Vulnerability brokers are often referred to as “vulnerability sharing circles”. These clubs are
built around independent organizations (mostly private companies) who oer money for new vulnerability reports, which they circulate within a closed group of subscribers to their security alert service. In the standard model, only good guys are allowed to join the club

-Cyber Insurance
Cyber-insurance is among the oldest proposals for market mechanisms to overcome the security market failure. The logic that cures the market failure goes as follows: end users demand insurance against financial losses from information security breaches and insurance companies sell this kind of coverage after a security audit. The premium is assumed to be adjusted by the individual risk, which depends on the IT systems in use and the security mechanisms in place.

Let's try define the market's participants, their expectations and value added through their actions, if any, of course.

-malicious (E-criminals, malware authors, competitors, political organization/fraction etc.)
-third party, end users, private detectives, military, intelligence personnel
-vendors (either through informediary, or directly themselves, which hasn't actually happened so far)

-newly born
-does it matter at the bottom line?

-Digital Armaments

-CERT model - totally out of the game these days?

As iDefense simply had to restore their position in this emerging market developed mainly by them, an offer for $10,000 was made for a critical vulnerability as defined by Microsoft. I mean, I'm sort of missing the point in here. Obviously, they are aware of the level of quality research that could be sold to them. Still I wonder what exactly are they competing with :

- trying to attract the most talented researchers, instead of having them turn to the dark side? I doubt they are that much socially oriented, but still it's an option?

- ensuring the proactive security of its customers through first notifying them, and them and then the general public? That doesn't necessarily secures the Internet, and sort of provides the clientele with a false feeling of security, "what if" a (malicious) vulnerability researcher doesn't cooperate with iDefense, and instead sells an 0day to a competitor? Would the vendor's IPS protect against a threat like that too?

- fighting against the permanent opportunity of another 0day, gaining only a temporary momentum advantage?

- improving the company's clients list through constant collaboration with leading vendors while communication a vulnerability in their software products?

A lot of research publications reasonably argue that the credit for the highest social-welware return goes to a CERT type of a model. And while this is truly, accountability and providing a researcher with the highest, both tangible, and intangible reward for them is what also can make an impact. As a matter of fact, is blackmailing a nasty option that could easily become reality in here, or I'm just being paranoid?

To conclude, this very same shop is definitely among the many other active out there for sure, so, sooner or later we would either witness the introduction of a reputable Auction based vulnerabilities market model, or continue living with windows of opportunities, clumsy vendors, and 0day mom-and-dad shops :) But mind you, turning vuln research into IP and paying for it would provide enough motiviation for an underground 0bay as well, wouldn't it?


OSVDB's Blog - Where's my 0day, please?
OSVDB's Blog - Vulnerability Markets


LinuxSecurity.com - Where's my 0day, please?
FIRST - Where's my 0day, please?

10.03.2006 - Sites that picked up the story :

Net-Security.org - Where's my 0day, please?
MalwareHelp.org- The International Exploits Shop: Where's my 0day, please?
Security.nl - Internationale Exploit Shop levert 0days op bestelling
WhiteDust.net - Where's my 0day, please?
Reseaux-Telecoms.net - Danchev sur l'Achat de failles
Informit Network - 0-Days for Sale

09.03.2006 - Two nice articles related to the issue appeared yesterday as well, "Black market thrives on vulnerability trading", from the article :

"Security giant Symantec claims that anonymous collusion between hackers and criminals is creating a thriving black market for vulnerability trading. As criminals have woken up to the massive reach afforded to their activities thanks to the Internet, hackers too are now able to avoid risking prison sentences by simply selling on their findings. Graeme Pinkney, a manager at Symantec for trend analysis, told us: 'People have suddenly realised that there's now a profit margin and a revenue stream in vulnerabilities... There's an element of anonymous co-operation between the hacker and criminal.'"

and "The value of vulnerabilities", a quote :

“ There are no guarantees, and therefore I think it would be pretty naive to believe that the person reporting the issue is the only one aware of its existence. That in itself is pretty frightening if you think about it. "

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