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Month of bug disclosures starts today

Microsoft, Apple and Mozilla under spotlight

A little-known group of security researchers will kick off a month of bug disclosures today that target unpatched vulnerabilities in software from Adobe, Microsoft, Mozilla, Apple and others.

But the researcher who launched the month-long bug festival practice four years ago isn't optimistic that reviving the practice would have an impact.

The 'Month Of Abysssec Undisclosed Bugs' (MOAUB) will feature flaws in Microsoft's Excel and Internet Explorer, the Linux-based cPanel web hosting control panel, and other software, said Abysssec Security Research in a post to the firm's blog earlier this month.

"They're threatening - at least, the companies affected will see it as a threat - to release vulnerabilities on all kinds of software, from desktop applications to browsers," said Jamz Yaneza, threat research manager at Trend Micro, today.

Microsoft, which figured prominently in the MOAUB announcement, said it's aware of the group's plan. "As always, if and when a vulnerability is publicly disclosed, Microsoft will take immediate action to determine the appropriate response for our customers," said Jerry Bryant, group manager with the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC).

Yaneza said he had not heard of Abysssec before this.

According to the group's website, it is made up of four researchers - none of whom were identified by a full name - that specialise in penetration testing, exploit development and application security review. Abysssec's website was registered in 2008, but the WHOIS record is hidden behind a privacy wall.

However, LinkedIn listed Shahin Ramezany, of Albany, N.Y, as a researcher with Abysssec. The group did not reply to an emailed request for an interview.

"Starting on the 1st of September, we will release a collection of [zero-days], web application vulnerabilities, and detailed binary analysis (and [proof-of-concepts]) for recently released advisories by vendors such as Microsoft, Mozilla, Sun, Apple, Adobe, HP [and] Novel [sic]," the foursome said.

Yaneza said users should pay attention to the MOAUB disclosures, but he didn't seem worried about the threat.

"It's all going to be low-hanging fruit," he said, referring to the term that describes easily-found vulnerabilities. "We've seen vulnerabilities on these [programs]. I'm not too much concerned. If users patch as usual and keep their automatic patching turned on, they should be fine."

Bug-of-the-month collections were popular several years ago, but the practice has been little used since 2007. In July 2006, HD Moore, now the chief security officer of Rapid7, used a 'Month of Browser Bugs' event to showcase vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer 6 (IE6), Firefox, Safari and Opera.

Moore's month-long bug event was quickly followed by others, including 'Month of Kernel Bugs' in November 2006, and a 'Month of Apple Bugs' in January 2007.

Yaneza called Abysssec's upcoming bug month a "publicity stunt" designed to attract attention to the group.

Moore agreed.

"Sure, they are publicity stunts, but that's not the point," he said today. "Projects like Month of Brower Bugs, and the kernel and Apple ones, they get vendors to patch lots of vulnerabilities, dozens and dozens, and focus security research on a necessary area."

But he wasn't sure MOAUB would do that. "Other projects focused on one general area, like browsers or Apple," Moore said. "But this seems like it's just a bunch of vulnerabilities. I don't know if this will have the same impact."

Microsoft's Bryant also took Abysssec to task. "Disclosing vulnerabilities publicly only puts customers at risk," he said in an e-mail, repeating a long-time stance by the company.

Abysssec will post its findings on the Exploit Database website throughout September.


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