[This was originally published on the OSVDB blog.]
Perhaps it is the fine tequila this evening, but I really don’t get how our industry can latch on to the recent ‘Aurora’ incident and try to take Microsoft to task about it. The amount of news on this has been overwhelming, and I will try to very roughly summarize:
- News surfaces Google, Adobe and 30+ companies hit by “0-day” attack
- Google uses this for political overtones
- Originally thought to be Adobe 0-day, revealed it was MSIE 0-day
- Jan 14, confirmed it is MSIE vuln, shortly after dubbed “aurora”
- Jan 21, uproar over MS knowing about the vuln since Sept
Now, here is where we get to the whole forest, trees and some analogy about eyesight. Oh, I’ll warn (and surprise) you in advance, I am giving Microsoft the benefit of the doubt here (well, for half the blog post) and throwing this back at journalists and the security community instead. Let’s look at this from a different angle.
The big issue that is newsworthy is that Microsoft knew of this vulnerability in September, and didn’t issue a patch until late January. What is not clear, is if Microsoft knew it was being exploited. The wording of the Wired article doesn’t make it clear: “aware months ago of a critical security vulnerability well before hackers exploited it to breach Google, Adobe and other large U.S. companies” and “Microsoft confirmed it learned of the so-called ‘zero-day’ flaw months ago”. Errr, nice wording. Microsoft was aware of the vulnerability (technically), before hackers exploited it, but doesn’t specifically say if they KNEW hackers were exploiting it. Microsoft learned of the “0-day” months ago? No, bad bad bad. This is taking an over-abused term and making it even worse. If a vulnerability is found and reported to the vendor before it is exploited, is it still 0-day (tree, forest, no one there to hear it falling)?
Short of Microsoft admitting they knew it was being exploited, we can only speculate. So, for fun, let’s give them a pass on that one and assume it was like any other privately disclosed bug. They were working it like any other issue, fixing, patching, regression testing, etc. Good Microsoft!
Bad Microsoft! But, before you jump on the bandwagon, bad journalists! Bad security community!
Why do you care they sat on this one vulnerability for six months? Why is that such a big deal? Am I the only one who missed the articles pointing out that they actually sat on five code execution bugs for longer? Where was the outpour of blogs or news articles mentioning that “aurora” was one of six vulnerabilities reported to them during or before September, all in MSIE, all that allowed remote code execution (tree, forest, not seeing one for the other)?
|CVE||Reported to MS||Disclosed||Time to Patch|
|CVE-2010-0244||2009-07-14||2010-01-21||6 Months, 7 Days (191 days)|
|CVE-2010-0245||2009-07-14||2010-01-21||6 Months, 7 Days (191 days)|
|CVE-2010-0246||2009-07-16||2010-01-21||6 Months, 5 Days (189 days)|
|CVE-2010-0248||2009-08-14||2010-01-21||5 Months, 7 days (160 days)|
|CVE-2010-0247||2009-09-03||2010-01-21||4 Months, 18 days (140 days)|
|CVE-2010-0249||2009-09-??||2010-01-14||4 Months, 11 days (133 days) – approx|
|CVE-2010-0027||2009-11-15||2010-01-21||2 Months, 6 days (67 days)|
|CVE-2009-4074||2009-11-20||2009-11-21||2 Months, 1 day (62 days)|
Remind me again, why the “Aurora” conspiracy is noteworthy? If Microsoft knew of six remote code execution bugs, all from the September time-frame, why is one any more severe than the other? Is it because one was used to compromise hosts, detected and published in an extremely abnormal fashion? Are we actually trying to hold Microsoft accountable on that single vulnerability when the five others just happened not to be used to compromise Google, Adobe and others?
Going back to the Wired article, they say on the second to last paragraph: “On Thursday, meanwhile, Microsoft released a cumulative security update for Internet Explorer that fixes the flaw, as well as seven other security vulnerabilities that would allow an attacker to remotely execute code on a victim’s computer.” Really, Wired? That late in the article, you gloss over “seven other vulnerabilities” that would allow remote code execution? And worse, you don’t point out that Microsoft was informed of five of them BEFORE AURORA?
Seriously, I am the first one to hold Microsoft over the flames for bad practices, but that goes beyond my boundaries. If you are going to take them to task over all this, at least do it right. SIX CODE EXECUTION VULNERABILITIES that they KNEW ABOUT FOR SIX MONTHS. Beating them up over just one is amateur hour in this curmudgeonly world.