Google supports public virus disclosures

Google has announced that the search engine will support security researchers publicising details of critical vulnerabilities under active exploitation after just seven days.

This means that is a security expert finds a flaw, Google will have just seven days to fix it before the researcher can make it all public.

If it is adopted widely it would mean that vendors have less time to create and test a patch than the previously recommended 60-day disclosure deadline for the most serious security flaws.

Writing in their blog, Google developers Chris Evans and Drew Hintz, said that the goal of the change is to prompt vendors to more quickly seal, or at least publicly react to, critical vulnerabilities and reduce the number of attacks that proliferate because of unprotected software.

It would mean an end to the days of vendors using responsible disclosure to delay issuing a fix as long as possible, sometimes even years.

Only once a patch is issued does a researcher reveal details of the software flaw. Under the concept of full disclosure, both the company and the public are given details at the same time.

Google broke ground on the problem when it issued the 60-day notice almost three years ago. It was seen as a compromise between full and responsible disclosures for critical vulnerabilities, particularly those that require complex coding to fix.

But since there are now zero-day exploits targeting unpatched software Google has decided that things need to be sped up.

The standing recommendation is that companies should fix critical vulnerabilities within 60 days. If a fix is impossible, they should notify the public about the risk and offer workarounds.

Based on Google’s experience, more urgent action, within seven days, is appropriate for critical vulnerabilities under active exploitation.

The pair acknowledge a week’s notice is unrealistic in some instances. But, they believe, it provides enough time for a company to provide mitigations — such as temporarily disabling a service or restricting access — to reduce the risks of further exploits in the wild.

The same deadline will apply to those bughunters who discover vulnerabilities in Google products too, they said.