September 03, 2010, 11:58 AM — A critical bug in QuickTime was reported to Apple two months before a second researcher independently revealed the vulnerability this week, the director of a bug bounty program said today.
The duplicate discovery was just one of an increasing number of overlapping vulnerability reports that show vendors must patch faster, said Aaron Portnoy, security team lead for HP TippingPoint's Zero Day Initiative (ZDI), the largest vulnerability payment program in the country.
"Overlapping discoveries are occurring much more often," said Portnoy. "This just reinforces the reasoning to put disclosure deadlines on vulnerabilities."
In 2007, ZDI had four sets of duplicate vulnerability reports, where more than one researcher submitted the same bug before the flaw was fixed and made public. The number of overlapping vulnerabilities fell to one set in 2008, then soared to 18 in 2009.
Through August, ZDI has logged 13 duplicate vulnerabilities, on pace to reach 20 for 2010, an 11% increase over last year.
The increase is proof, said Portnoy, that multiple researchers often find the same flaw independently, a tenant of those who believe that researchers are in the right when they take bugs public to put pressure on vendors to patch. By that line of thinking, if one researcher has found a flaw -- even if it's kept private until it's patched -- others have probably also uncovered the bug. And some of them may be ready to exploit the vulnerability in the wild long before a fix is available.
This week's QuickTime bug is a case in point, said Portnoy.
"One of our researchers submitted this, and we reported it to Apple on June 30," said Portnoy. So far, Apple has not responded to ZDI's bug report.
Portnoy blasted Apple for wasting the opportunity to patch the bug before it went public. "We gave this to Apple two months ago, and a fix requires no testing," said Portnoy. "I can't understand it. It's literally a single parameter [in QuickTime]. I could have completely solved this within a day."
On Monday, Spanish researcher Ruben Santamarta published information about the bug in the QuickTime plug-in for Microsoft 's Internet Explorer (IE), and traced the flaw to Apple's failure to clean up code after developers dropped the "_Marshaled_pUnk" function.