Menu
Obama administration backs disclosing software vulnerabilities in most cases

Obama administration backs disclosing software vulnerabilities in most cases

The administration said information may be withheld for national security and law enforcement needs

The administration of U.S. President Barack Obama favors disclosing to the public vulnerabilities in commercial and open source software in the national interest, unless there is a national security or law enforcement need, the country's spy agency said.

The government was on Friday countering a news report that said the U.S. National Security Agency knew about the recently identified Heartbleed vulnerability for at least two years and had used it for surveillance purposes.

The administration said the NSA was not aware of Heartbleed until it was made public in a private sector cybersecurity report.

"When Federal agencies discover a new vulnerability in commercial and open source software -- a so-called 'Zero day' vulnerability because the developers of the vulnerable software have had zero days to fix it -- it is in the national interest to responsibly disclose the vulnerability rather than to hold it for an investigative or intelligence purpose," the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a statement Friday.

The ODNI statement added that the White House had reviewed its policies in response to the recommendations of the President's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, set up to review the surveillance practices of the NSA.

Under an inter-agency process called the Vulnerabilities Equities Process, unless there is a clear national security or law enforcement need, the process is "biased toward responsibly disclosing such vulnerabilities," according to the spy agency.

One of the recommendations in December of the review group was that U.S. policy should ensure that zero-day vulnerabilities are quickly blocked and the underlying vulnerabilities are patched on U.S. government and other networks. The group allowed that in "rare instances," the policy of the government may briefly authorize using a zero-day flaw for intelligence collection after inter-agency review involving all relevant departments at a senior level.

Referring to allegations that the U.S. government introduced "backdoors" into commercially available software, enabling the decryption of apparently secure software, the review group said it was not aware of any such incidents, but advised that the US Government should make it clear that the NSA will not engineer vulnerabilities into "encryption algorithms that guard global commerce."

The Heartbleed vulnerability takes advantage of a problem in certain versions of OpenSSL, a set of encryption tools used for securing Web connections, and could allow a remote attacker to expose critical data such as user authentication credentials and secret keys.

Internet companies rushed to fix the problem, while the Canada Revenue Agency halted online filing of tax returns by the country's citizens as a preventive measure. The CRA's systems were restored on Sunday after applying a "patch" that addresses the vulnerability. "We could not allow these systems back online until we were fully confident they were safe and secure for Canadian taxpayers," said CRA Commissioner Andrew Treusch in a statement. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service said it continued to accept tax returns ahead of an April 15 deadline, as its systems were not affected by Heartbleed

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

Follow Us

Join the New Zealand Reseller News newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Office of the Director of National IntelligencesecurityU.S. National Security Agencyinternetgovernment

Slideshows

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016

Reseller News looks back on a tumultuous 12 months for the New Zealand channel, assessing the fallout from a year of sizeable industry change. Whether it be local or global mergers and acquisitions, distribution deals or job changes, the channel that started the year differs somewhat to the one set to finish it - Reseller News assesses the key moments that made 2016.​

Top 50 defining moments of the New Zealand channel in 2016
​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel

​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel

Hewlett Packard Enterprise honoured its top performing Kiwi partners at the second running of its HPE Partner Awards in New Zealand, held at a glitzy ceremony in Auckland. Recognising excellence across eight categories - from distributors to resellers - the tech giant celebrated its first year as a standalone company, following its official split from HP in 2015.

​Hewlett Packard Enterprise honours high achieving NZ channel
Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise

Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise

Nutanix recently took to the seas for a Christmas Cruise around Sydney Harbour with its Australia and New Zealand staff, customers and partners to celebrate a stellar year for the vendor. With the sun out, they were all smiles and mingled over drinks and food.

Nutanix treats channel partners to Christmas cruise
Show Comments