Menu
Zero-day flaws in Tails aren't for sale, vulnerability broker says

Zero-day flaws in Tails aren't for sale, vulnerability broker says

Exodus Intelligence will provide a report to Tails by the end of the week, a company executive said

A company that specializes in selling information on software vulnerabilities has reignited a debate over the handling of such information, especially when it pertains to privacy-focused tools.

Exodus Intelligence, based in Austin, Texas, tweeted on Monday it had found several vulnerabilities in Tails, an operating system and suite of applications designed to make it harder to track a user's activity online.

Exodus researches and sells information on software vulnerabilities, a legal business but one that attracts criticism for its opaque nature and worries over how governments or other entities might use the information.

The company has since announced it will supply a report with the vulnerability information to Tails' developers by the end of this week. Exodus will not share that information outside of the company before then, wrote Aaron Portnoy, vice president, in an email exchange Tuesday with IDG News Service.

When asked if Exodus was making a special exception for Tails, Portnoy wrote: "We evaluate every vulnerability we deal with on a case-by-case basis, therefore the Tails vulnerability is not an exception as we have no baseline standard."

Tails is a Linux-based operating system that uses several privacy-enhancing tools such as Tor to make using the Internet more anonymous. It is designed to be used on-the-go, such as at public Internet access points, and is considered one of the best but not foolproof ways to reduce leaving a digital footprint on a computer.

The tweet from Exodus provoked a reaction from Tails, which wrote on its blog that it was not contacted prior to the tweet. But Tails was pleased it will have the chance to see the information.

"We're told they won't disclose these vulnerabilities publicly before we have corrected it, and Tails users have had a chance to upgrade," the blog post read. "We think that this is the right process to responsibly disclose vulnerabilities, and we're really looking forward to read this report."

Portnoy said that Exodus doesn't exclude certain kinds of software from its analysis and that "we focus on things that are widely deployed."

It wasn't clear if public pressure influenced the decision by Exodus to disclose the information privately to Tails. The way the issue was handled generated a largely negative reaction against Exodus on Twitter, with some accusing the company of potentially putting users at risk.

Portnoy noted some tweets from Christopher Soghoian, who is the principal technologist with the Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. Soghoian has long been critical of the vulnerability broker business.

Soghoian took a swipe at Portnoy, writing "I'm pretty sure @aaronportnoy isn't interested in keeping anyone safe. He is interested in selling awesome 0-day for cash money."

Portnoy said in an email that he understood why Tails' developers "may have been irritated due to the hyperbolic reactions from some of the more vocal individuals on the outskirts of this industry who were under the impression we were selling the information to others."

Referring to Soghoian, Portnoy wrote: "When people have upwards of 35,000 followers, false ideas can easily spread without any attempt at validation."

Send news tips and comments to jeremy_kirk@idg.com. Follow me on Twitter: @jeremy_kirk

Follow Us

Join the New Zealand Reseller News newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Exodus Intelligencesecurity

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