The Code That Cuts Both Ways

Monday, 23 December 2002, 1:44 PM EST

The focus on computer security has never been more intense, and the debate over disclosure has never been hotter. On one hand, mailing lists like BugTraq can give vendors an incentive to fix security holes by making them public. But vendors like Microsoft say full disclosure only helps crackers, so they urge security experts to wait before making information available.

Should security experts publicize vulnerability information, especially when releasing that data could result in functional attacks on security holes before a patch is released? Although some alerts posted to mailing lists merely describe a flaw or contain non-working or disabled code, others include usable code for carrying out an exploit. Where should the line be drawn?

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