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Dutch government aims to shape ethical hackers' disclosure practices

Loek Essers | Jan. 7, 2013
The Dutch government's cyber security center has published guidelines that it hopes will encourage ethical hackers to disclose security vulnerabilities in a responsible way.

While the responsible disclosure procedure is in principle a matter for the detector and the organization, the NCSC can act as an intermediary if a vulnerability is reported to it directly.

"I think this is a very good thing, especially when the NCSC acts as an intermediary," said Ronald Prins, CEO of the Dutch security firm Fox-IT. One of the problems ethical hackers face is that they have a hard time being taken seriously if they report a vulnerability to a company, and they have a hard time reaching the right person, he said.

If an organization is contacted about a security vulnerability by an official government organization like the NCSC, it will probably take the warning more seriously, he added. Online forms used to report the vulnerability directly to the right person within an organization could also help this process, he added.

While there is little flexibility given to ethical hackers within the guidelines, Prins said he understood why the government did that. It prevents ethical hackers from crossing the line, he said.

"I see that some people are disappointed" because the Public Prosecution Service is still allowed to prosecute when they deem that necessary, Prins said. But it is impossible not to do this, he added. "I would be very pleased if someone reports a problem that he found," he said. But if that person spends days pounding his systems to get in, Prins would definitely consider filing a legal complaint, he said.

 

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