Security Market Segment LS
Wednesday, 04 August 2010 08:43

HP gives vendors six months to fix vulnerabilities


HP's TippingPoint operation will publicly disclose security vulnerabilities six months after they are reported.

The TippingPoint Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) was set up to reward security researchers for responsibly disclosing vulnerabilities, while giving TippingPoint a head start in blocking the corresponding exploits in its intrusion protection system (IPS) products.

TippingPoint came under the HP umbrella as a result of the acquisition of 3Com.

TippingPoint's previous practice has been to give vendors "a reasonable period of time develop a fix to the identified vulnerability" according to the specific circumstances.

The company has now set a time limit of six months, after which it will publish "limited details of the vulnerabilities so end-users can take precautionary measures." HP officials said the purpose of the change was to encourage vendors to fix affected software quickly, reducing the risk of potential security attacks.

"Comprehensive protection of critical data assets requires organisations to keep their defences up to date as malicious activity reaches new levels and applications become more complex,' said Aaron Portnoy, manager, Security Research, TippingPoint, HP.

"This policy change is critical for staying ahead of threats so users can reduce data, financial and productivity loss," he added.

So which vendors are currently taking more than six months to patch vulnerabilities? You might be in for a surprise if you read on.

The ZDI already publishes a list of vulnerabilities that it has notified to vendors but not yet disclosed. Many major vendors are listed as having vulnerabilities that are more than six months old, including Apple, Borland, CA, Cisco, EMC, IBM, Microsoft, Novell, Oracle, RealNetworks, Sun, Symantec, and - ironically - HP.

There's a cluster of HP vulnerabilities that were notified around 18 months ago, but the dubious honour of the oldest unpatched vulnerability on the ZDI list goes to IBM, with one that was notified to the company in mid 2007.

But according to a tweet from ZDI, the six-month 'fix or we'll disclose' threat will not be applied retroactively, so TippingPoint's colleagues in other parts of HP can breath a sigh of relief.


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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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