Warner emphasizes importance of vulnerability disclosure programs


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A vulnerability disclosure program allowed a researcher to tell the Department of Defense that malware was exploiting a security misconfiguration on a DoD server.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., thinks there is an obvious lesson to be learned here.

“This incident demonstrates the inherent value of vulnerability disclosure programs for information technology products operated by federal agencies,” Warner wrote in a letter to the DoD, in which he highlighted his Internet of Things (IoT) Cybersecurity Improvement Act, noting that the piece of legislation would help advance similar coordinated vulnerability programs and work in conjunction with the procedures in place at DoD.

“These programs are a crucial force multiplier for federal cybersecurity efforts,” Warner wrote. “Clear guidelines and a process for security researchers to find and share vulnerabilities enabled this malware discovery, and ultimately prompt remedial action by DoD. Continuing to encourage the responsible discovery and disclosure of bugs or vulnerabilities on federal information technology systems with both internal and outside security researchers can only strengthen the cybersecurity posture of federal and DoD systems.”

The bipartisan, bicameral legislation, which successfully passed through the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in June, would improve the cybersecurity of Internet-connected devices and require that devices purchased by the U.S. government meet certain minimum security requirements.

According to ZDNet, a security researcher searching for bots discovered that a DoD automation server running on an Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud-computing platform was publicly accessible and did not require login credentials.

Later on, the researcher discovered that the server had been compromised and was being used to mine cryptocurrency by a botnet.

In his letter, Warner also emphasized the need to utilize proper cybersecurity measures and monitoring, including on commercial cloud-computing platforms and open source software, such as the server involved in the DoD incident.

“I am hopeful that DoD will take the lessons from this incident seriously and reassess current processes as necessary. It is crucial to ensure that future incidents involving open vulnerabilities and improper access configurations that permit malware installation on federal information technology systems cannot reoccur, including on systems hosted by commercial cloud service providers,” he continued. “I also hope to continue to work with you on passing my legislation and continuing to push for strong, thoughtful, cybersecurity policies.”

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