Site auctions software vulnerabilities to top bidder

WabiSabiLabi site could drive up the cost of fixing holes

There are many ways vulnerability information can get out to the industry but a controversial new site, auctioning such information to the highest bidder, may be the wave of the future.

The auction service, called WabiSabiLabi, lets potential sellers and buyers connect e-Bay-style, with timed bidding periods and minimum starting prices. Founders of the wslabi.com site say their auction house serves the researchers who discover vulnerabilities and often don't reap monetary rewards for their time and talent.

The business model is based on a practice that e-Bay shut down 16 months ago saying it promoted illegal activity. At the recent Black Hat show, published reports stated that 88 percent of respondents to an online poll said using such sites is dangerous. While it is accepted that researchers deserve to be paid for their work, selling to the highest bidder is frowned upon.

WabiSabiLabi disagrees, saying its e-marketplace, where any qualified buyer can bid, will actually discourage those who discover vulnerabilities from selling them on black markets to criminals who try to turn them into money.

The company says it checks out buyers and sellers before they can trade. "We are very aware about the risks of selling vulnerabilities, and this is why we subject buyers to deeper scrutiny, to minimize the risk of selling the wrong information to the wrong people," WabiSabiLabi says in its ethics statement. "We require non-anonymity from buyers and sellers alike. The stakes are just too high at this point in history."

Even so, the marketplace, which started business six weeks ago, is being eyed cautiously by entities dedicated to eliminating vulnerabilities quickly to avoid criminal exploitation.

"I don't think it's necessarily good for the community," says Jason Greenwood, the general manager of VeriSign's iDefense team, which pays bounties -- sometimes tens of thousands of dollars -- to researchers who discover vulnerabilities. "It will increase the perceived value of vulnerabilities, and the good guys already have trouble competing with the money you can get on the black market."

"There's a real danger that a number of these vulnerabilities will be purchased by buyers who do not turn them over to the vendors," says Terri Forslof, manager of security response for Tipping Point. "Once a vulnerability is turned over to a vendor its value starts to depreciate immediately. If someone paid lots of money for a vulnerability -- say US$75,000 to US$100,000 -- I guarantee they're not giving it to the vendor. Otherwise they've wasted their money."

VeriSign and its competitor Tipping Point, for example, both pay cash for significant vulnerability discoveries in an effort to plug software holes before they can be exploited. The companies then work with the vendors whose software is compromised to find fixes and publish the vulnerabilities.

VeriSign runs quarterly challenges paying as much as US$15,000 for researchers to find particular types of vulnerabilities in particular platforms, Greenwood says. Tipping Point ranks contributing vulnerability researchers as bronze, silver, gold and platinum depending on the quantity and quality of their discoveries, according to its description of Tipping Point's Zero Day Initiative. It rewards them with cash bonuses up to US$25,000 and pays their way to the Defcon and Black Hat security conferences.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tim Greene

Network World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?