Leaked Bug Alerts Cause a Stir

Wednesday, 19 March 2003, 3:35 PM EST

Riley Hassell was mortified this week when details from a confidential bug report he had written mysteriously showed up on a popular security mailing list.

Hassell, a security researcher for eEye Digital Security, had explained in writing a flaw he discovered in widely used Internet software from Sun Microsystems. The problem was so severe that Hassell had agreed to keep his advisory secret for several weeks until Sun and other vendors could create fixes for the affected applications.

But an anonymous person using the e-mail account Hack4life@hushmail.com apparently thought the information shouldn't be kept under wraps.

On Sunday, Hack4life posted an advisory containing the bug's specifics to the Full-Disclosure security mailing list. Hack4life also posted a warning about a separate security flaw discovered by researchers at MIT that wasn't supposed to be published until June.

Hack4life apparently intercepted both documents from the Computer Emergency Response Team, a federally funded security information clearinghouse. CERT officials confirmed this week that CERT had been working with eEye and MIT researchers to coordinate the release of the advisories. According to CERT, intruders may have hacked into systems operated by any of the dozens of affected vendors who received advance copies of the advisories.

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