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Google researcher gives Microsoft 5 days to fix XP zero-day bug

June 10, 2010 03:09 PM ET

"Google can't have its cake and eat it, too," said Robert Hansen, the CEO of SecTheory. A noted security researcher -- in 2008, he and Jeremiah Grossman, chief technology officer at WhiteHat Security, made headlines when they revealed details about browser "clickjacking" attacks -- Hansen scolded Google, Ormandy's employer, for claiming that the company abides by responsible disclosure when its security researchers do not.

"Their researchers are going off half-cocked," said Hansen, who deplored Ormandy's quick publication of the vulnerability and attack code. "It just doesn't add up."

Hansen went even further, and said a case could be made that Ormandy's fast trigger could be part of the battles between Google and Microsoft. "It sounds to me like Google was upset about the publicity over its decision to drop Windows, the 'use anything but Microsoft' thing. Google got a lot of backlash from the security community over that, because it doesn't matter what OS you use."

Earlier this month Google and Microsoft traded shots over a report that Google was urging its workers to dump Windows over security concerns. Security analysts said the charge was bogus.

"This stinks of retribution," said Hansen. "If Google really goes by responsible disclosure, they should fire Ormandy today." Hansen noted that Ormandy credited other Google security researchers for their help and linked to a Google blog on browser security in his message on Full Disclosure. "You shouldn't do that if you want to disassociate yourself from your employer."

That's impossible, argued Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Security. "[As a security researcher] you can't really separate your work from your employer. So you have to wonder if [Ormandy[] isn't intentionally feeding the feud between Google and Microsoft."

Like Hansen, Storms questioned Ormandy's decision to reveal his findings just five days after he reported the vulnerability to Microsoft. "You can't say in this case that the vendor was sitting on their hands, not being responsive, which is why researchers usually go public, to force [a vendor's] hand.

"This is no better than not reporting it to Microsoft," concluded Storms.

Hansen, who acknowledged that he has worked for Microsoft as a security consultant on several projects, weighed in again. "The whole thing rubbed me the wrong way," he said.

Ormandy did not respond to a request for comment on Hansen's accusations.

Others knocked Ormandy for offering up an unsanctioned fix. In his note on Full Disclosure, Ormandy recommended moves that users could take until a patch is ready, including a link to what he described as an "unofficial (temporary) hotfix."

But Secunia said the patch didn't work. "It is possible to bypass the fix implemented by the unofficial hotfix and still exploit the vulnerability," claimed the Danish vulnerability tracking firm in a blog post Thursday.

Microsoft agreed with Secunia. "The mitigations [Ormandy] presented may not be effective, so he has really put both our customers and the customers of his employer at risk," said the MSRC's Bryant.

Microsoft's next regularly-scheduled security updates will ship July 13. Storms, for one, doesn't think Microsoft will have a fix finished by then. "They probably already have all the patches for July in QA by now," said Storms. "I don't think it's feasible that they could have something ready in time."

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at Twitter @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed Keizer RSS. His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

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