Researcher NKTPRO does not like the way Yahoo! manages security reports.

Last year he discovered a XSS Vulnerability in Yahoo! Mail, allowing attackers to steal Yahoo! accounts. After asking for "para-legal" advice, he decided to do the right thing and go for responsible disclosure. Communication was described as "very good" in the beginning, but almost two months later it wasn't clear if the bug had been fully fixed yet, and no public acknowledgment of the problem nor credits to the reporter were given, anyway.

By contrast, Google maintains a dedicated communication channel for security researchers, is known to fix reported issues very timely and publicly thanks reporters.

Some weeks ago, NKTPRO found another XSS vulnerability affecting Yahoo! blogs, and this one was even worse: persistent, CSS-based and working with IE6, IE7 and Firefox 2 (unless NoScript was installed), it could enable attackers to build worms spreading through Yahoo! networks at a potentially very fast pace. Since our hero is apparently a nice guy, he decided to give Yahoo! a second chance, filing a responsible report again. But after waiting one month, frustrated by its counterpart's kind of expected (lack of) responsiveness, he gave up and went for full disclosure, greeted by the almost unanimous approval of his fellow sla.ckers.

After full disclosure, the one-month old bug has been fixed in 3 days.

"Full vs responsible disclosure" is a potentially endless debate, but here we can see two different "corporate styles", Yahoo!'s and Google's, eliciting different reactions from whitehat hackers and ultimately leading to different results:

  1. You can be open about your issues and your security processes, and "reward" reporters, not necessarily with money prizes, which may become dangerous when they feed an anonymous, uncontrolled vulnerability brokerage market. Most of these guys would just appreciate their name attached to your security page, for the glory and something interesting to add to their CV. In turn, you get valuable bug reports with practical proof of concepts, and a reasonable time frame to make your users safer and run regression tests.
  2. Or you can decide to discourage confidential reports, either by threatening legal consequences for "testers" or just refusing to give public credit on their findings. It can work once, but as soon as it's clear that responsible disclosure is not an option, you will be forced into tracking every each full disclosure forum out there and playing catch up in a rush because your vulnerabilities are already public and script kiddies may be busy with your users (good luck with code quality).

So, "big brother" concerns aside, do you feel safer with a Yahoo! Mail account or a GMail one?

One Response to “Yahoo!'s Attitude Encouraging Zero Day Full Disclosure?”

  1. #1 Aerik says:

    I feel better with a Gmail account because I don't need javascript enabled to use it. I can even nuke anything google or remotely google-related with adblock-plus and untrust all of Google, turn off javascript completely, disable referrers and forbid meta-refresh, and it'll still work, and safely. Working email sans scripts: friendly.

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