An Empirical Analysis of Vendor Response to Software Vulnerability Disclosure
32 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2005
Date Written: August 2005
Software vulnerability disclosure refers to the publication of vulnerability information before a patch to address the vulnerability has been issued by the software vendor. It has generated intense interest and debate. In particular, there have been arguments made both in opposition to and in favor of alternatives such as full and instant disclosure and limited or no disclosure. An important consideration in this debate is the behavior of the software vendor. Does vulnerability disclosure policy have an effect on patch release behavior of software vendors? This paper compiles a unique data set from CERT/CC and SecurityFocus to answer this question. Our results suggest that disclosure policy has a significant positive impact on the vendor patching speed. Vendors are 137% more likely to patch due to disclosure. In particular, instant disclosure hastens the patch delivery by almost 29 days. Open source vendors patch more quickly than closed source vendors and severe vulnerabilities are patched faster. We also find that vendors respond more slowly to vulnerabilities not handled by CERT/CC. This might reflect unmeasured differences in the severity and importance of vulnerabilities. It might also reflect the stronger lines of communication between CERT/CC and vendors, and the value of the vulnerability analysis by CERT/CC.
Keywords: Security vulnerability, disclosure policy, patching speed, open source, hazard functions
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation