Exploit code on trial

Monday, 24 November 2003, 1:14 PM EST

Security pros gathering at a Stanford University Law School conference on responsible vulnerability disclosure Saturday harmonized on the principal that vendors should be privately notified of holes in their products, and given at least some time to produce a patch before any public disclosure is made. But there was pronounced disagreement on the question of whether or not researchers should publicly release proof-of-concept code to demonstrate a vulnerability.

UK-based security researcher David Litchfield, of NGS Software, said he publicly swore off the practice after an exploit he released to demonstrate a hole in Microsoft's SQL Server became the template for January's grotesquely virulent Slammer worm. At Saturday's conference, held by the university's Center for Internet and Society, Litchfield said he wrestled with the moral issues for some time. "At the end of the day, part of my stuff, which was intended to educate, did something nefarious, and I don't want to be a part of that," said Litchfield, a prolific bug-finder.

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