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Open-source software projects need to improve vulnerability handling practices, researchers say

Lucian Constantin | Oct. 31, 2013
Some large open-source developers are good at dealing with vulnerability reports, but many smaller ones are not, Rapid7 found

This issue can also be used to bypass strong authentication requirements configured on some operating systems to prevent people from easily gaining root access. If the application running on such a system only requires a username and password for authentication and then allows authenticated command execution on the OS, then the stricter controls are bypassed, Kirsch said.

In the process of disclosing the identified security issues to the relevant software projects, Rapid7 found that many of them did not follow common industry practices when it came to handling vulnerability reports and working with security researchers.

"Across these seven projects, I found there were at least seven different approaches to handling incoming vulnerability reports," Tod Beardsley, the engineering manager for Metasploit, said Wednesday in a blog post.

"I won't mention which project representative asked for a password-protected zip file of the disclosure, while another filed the issue on a public bug tracker which promptly e-mailed it back in cleartext, but the level of preparedness I ran into was pretty troubling," he said.

While some of the large open-source software developers like the Apache Software Foundation or Mozilla have good processes in place for dealing with vulnerability reports, there's a lot of room for education for smaller open-source projects that don't deal with this on a daily basis, Kirsch said.

Rapid7 released a list of recommendations that includes creating a dedicated security email address -- usually security@domain -- to receive vulnerability reports, creating a PGP key and publishing it somewhere where it's easy to find, encrypting sensitive communications that deals with vulnerabilities, acknowledging the receipt of vulnerability reports, informing application users about the patched vulnerabilities, and more.

 

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