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Posted Oct 17, 2000
Authored by rain forest puppy | Site wiretrip.net

RFPolicy 2.0 - rain forest puppy's policy on notifying vendors and releasing security vulnerabilities.

Changes: Less stringent on timeframes, more stringent on communication. Thanks to everyone who contributed. I also added some supporting notes (FAQ, etc) to help dispell some misconceptions on it.
tags | paper, vulnerability
SHA-256 | 292c943bdd96a7ec03da8dac3e27832c587f3bcc55001ecabfda4ad18b74786b


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////// Full Disclosure Policy (RFPolicy) v2.0 //////

This policy is available at http://www.wiretrip.net/rfp/policy.html

\\\ Executive overview for vendors and software maintainers \\\

This policy states the 'guidelines' that an individual intends to
follow. You basically have 5 days (read below for the definitions and
semantics of what is considered a 'day') to return contact to the
individual, and must keep in contact with them *at least* every 5
days. Failure to do so will discourage them from working with you and
encourage them to publicly disclose the security problem.

This policy is not set in stone--in fact, it is encouraged that all
parties regularly communicate with each during the process, adjusting
as situations arise.

\\\ Table of contents \\\

Purpose of this policy

Policy definitions


Detailed/commented explanation of policy

Difference between version 1 and version 2 of RFPolicy

RFPolicy FAQ

Using this policy


\\\ Purpose of this policy \\\

This policy exists to establish a guideline for interaction between a
researcher and software maintainer. It serves to quash assumptions and
clearly define intentions, so that both parties may immediately and
effectively gauge the problem, produce a solution, and disclose the

First and foremost, a wake-up call to the software maintainer: the
researcher has chosen to NOT immediately disclose the problem, but
rather make an effort to work with you. This is a choice they did not
have to make, and a choice that hopefully you will respect and accept

The goal of following this policy, above all else, is education:

Education of the vendor to the problem (ISSUE, as defined below).

Education of the researcher on how the vendor intends to fix the
problem, and what caveats might cause a solution to be delayed.

Education of the community of the problem, and hopefully a

With education, through continued communication between the researcher
and software maintainer, it allows both parties to see where the other
one is coming from. Coupled with compensation*, the experience is then
beneficial to the researcher, vendor, and community. Win/win/win for
everybody. :)

(*Compensation is meant to include credit for discovery of the ISSUE,
and perhaps in some cases, encouragement from the vendor to continue
research, which might include product updates, premier technical
subscriptions, etc. Monetary compensation, or any situation that could
be misconstrued as extortion, is highly discouraged.)

\\\ Policy definitions \\\

The ISSUE is the vulnerability, problem, or otherwise reason for
contact and communication.

The ORIGINATOR is the individual or group submitting the ISSUE.

The MAINTAINER is the individual, group, or vendor that maintains
the software, hardware, or resources that are related to the ISSUE.

The DATE OF CONTACT is the point in time when the ORIGINATOR
contacts the MAINTAINER.

All dates, times, and time zones are relative to the ORIGINATOR.

A work day is generally defined in respect to the ORIGINATOR.

\\\ Policy \\\

A. The ORIGINATOR will send email regarding the ISSUE to the
MAINTAINER; the point in time when email is sent from the ORIGINATOR
is considered the DATE OF CONTACT.

It is important that the ORIGINATOR review any documentation included
with the object of the ISSUE for indication of a proper method of
contact. That failing, the ORIGINATOR should check the web site of the
MAINTAINER for methods of contact. Should the ORIGINATOR not be able
to locate a suitable email address for the MAINTAINER, the ORIGINATOR
should address the ISSUE to:


regardless of their existence. Anyone who could be deemed as a
'MAINTAINER' is encouraged to populate at least some of the above
email addresses. Email auto-responses should not be considered as a
message from the MAINTAINER.

Note: addressing the ISSUE to InterNIC handles may cause the email to
be misdirected (for example, to a virtual hosting company who happens
to host the MAINTAINER's web site). Addressing the ISSUE to the above
listed email addresses may cause the email to be received by
non-authoritative persons (for example, to an online service provider
who happens to have an user named 'security-alert').

B. The MAINTAINER is to be given 5 working days (in respects to the
ORIGINATOR) from the DATE OF CONTACT; should no contact occur by the
end of 5 working days, the ORIGINATOR should disclose the ISSUE.
Should the MAINTAINER contact the ORIGINATOR within the 5 working
days, it is at the discretion of the ORIGINATOR to delay disclosure
past 5 working days. The decision to delay should be passed upon
active communication between the ORIGINATOR and MAINTAINER.

C. Requests from the MAINTAINER for help in reproducing problems or
for additional information should be honored by the ORIGINATOR. The
ORIGINATOR is encouraged to delay disclosure of the ISSUE if the
MAINTAINER provides feasible reasons for requiring so.

D. If the MAINTAINER goes beyond 5 working days without any
communication to the ORIGINATOR, the ORIGINATOR may choose to disclose
the ISSUE. The MAINTAINER is responsible for providing regular status
updates (regarding the resolution of the ISSUE) at least once every 5
working days.

E. In respect for the ORIGINATOR following this policy, the MAINTAINER
is encouraged to provide proper credit to the ORIGINATOR for doing so.
Failure to document credit to the ORIGINATOR may leave the ORIGINATOR
unwilling to follow this policy with the same MAINTAINER on future
issues, at the ORIGINATOR's discretion. Suggested (minimal) credit
would be:

"Credit to [ORIGINATOR] for disclosing the problem to [MAINTAINER]."

F. The MAINTAINER is encouraged to coordinate a joint public
release/disclosure with the ORIGINATOR, so that advisories of problem
and resolution can be made available together.

G. If the ISSUE is publicly disclosed, by a third-party, the
ORIGINATOR is encouraged to discuss the current status of the ISSUE
with the MAINTAINER; based on that discussion, the ORIGINATOR may
choose to disclose the ISSUE. The MAINTAINER is encouraged to credit
the ORIGINATOR for discovering the ISSUE. Should the MAINTAINER
disclose the ISSUE, or items supporting/relating to the ISSUE
(patches, fixes, etc), the ORIGINATOR may choose to disclose the

\\\ Detailed/commented explanation of policy \\\

This section serves to elaborate on the items in the policy, for
better understanding.

A. Pretty self explanatory--the ORIGINATOR is to email the MAINTAINER
about the problem. The ORIGINATOR should do their homework and try to
find the correct address to email (by checking the MAINTAINER's web
site, by looking in documentation distributed with the
software/product, etc). Emailing InterNIC handles or addresses such as
'postmaster' or 'webmaster' is not good, since they are most likely IT
support staff and not the proper representatives to handle such a

B. The MAINTAINER has 5 work days respond. Note that all times of work
days are relative to the ORIGINATOR, not the MAINTAINER. Suggestion to
the MAINTAINER: sooner is better than later--just because you have 5
days does not mean you need to take them all. The ORIGINATOR is
technically free to do whatever they want to do after 5 work
days--however, they should be fair and wait if the MAINTAINER shows
adequate initiative to fix the ISSUE.

C. Just as the MAINTAINER shouldn't ignore the ORIGINATOR, neither
should the ORIGINATOR ignore the MAINTAINER. The ORIGINATOR should
help the MAINTAINER recreate the problem, if necessary. It's probably
in the best interest of the ORIGINATOR to help the MAINTAINER confirm
the problem--otherwise, the ORIGINATOR stands to disclose a
potentially false ISSUE.

D. The MAINTAINER has to actively give status reports. Note that it's
the MAINTAINER's responsibility to do so, and not the ORIGINATOR's
responsibility to request them.

E. If the ORIGINATOR does indeed take the time to follow this policy,
they should be acknowledged not only for doing so, but in general,
acknowledged for finding the problem. There are proper ways to cite
references, credit sources, and otherwise respect the origination of
information--I suggest vendors do the same. If you can not respect the
ORIGINATOR enough for taking the time to notify you of the ISSUE, the
ORIGINATOR (and possibly others) may feel reluctant to follow this
policy with the same MAINTAINER in the future.

F. Making the problem and solution advisories available together
allows the community to have immediate access to both the problem
description and the appropriate fix.

G. If the MAINTAINER feels it's appropriate to alert the public of the
issue, then there's no reason why the ORIGINATOR should not.
Traditionally, alerting the community of a problem (but not providing
full exploit details) has proven to be futile; other researchers are
then just as likely to discover the problem as well--and they may not
bide by the guidelines set by this policy. Therefore, if the issue is
to be disclosed, all aspects of it should be disclosed. If a
third-party discovers and publishes the vulnerability, the MAINTAINER
and ORIGINATOR should evaluate the status of a fix, and act
accordingly. No matter what, the MAINTAINER should always credit the

\\\ Difference between version 1 and version 2 of RFPolicy \\\

Version 1 required a 2 day initial contact period, and then a 5 day
wait before disclosure. Due to all the possible ways '2 days' could be
mishandled, it was removed in favor of a solid 5 day period.

The email section in version 2 was reworked to discourage emails to
InterNIC handles, and encourage trying to locate the correct email
address (RTFM :)

Version 2 better defines what should happen at the end of the
initial 5 day waiting period.

Version 2 adds the provision for sustained contact from the

Version 2 defines possible actions should the ISSUE become public
before disclosure by the originator.

"This is not a legal contract" mumbo-jumbo removed from version 2.

\\\ RFPolicy FAQ \\\

Q. This policy uses dates and times for gauging responses. How do time
zones/holidays/weekends/cultural differences factor in?
A. First off, as noted above, all dates and times are relative to the
ORIGINATOR. Now, it is quite possible that a difference in date/time
perspective occurs, due to: the ORIGINATOR being on a different
continent than the MAINTAINER, the MAINTAINER having a different work
week than the ORIGINATOR, the MAINTAINER being sick, the MAINTAINER
taking an extended weekend, the MAINTAINER having a holiday, etc.
Therefore the initial contact period was extended to 5 days--we feel
that 5 days should be adequate to surmount any date/time differences.

Q. I'm a software maintainer, and I can't possibly fix the problem in
5 days....
A. You don't have to. If you (re)read the above, you have 5 days to
establish communication. Provided you cooperate with the researcher
and keep them 'in the loop', they should provide you with whatever
time necessary to resolve the ISSUE (within fair reason).

Q. I'm a software maintainer, and I want more than 5 days!
A. Well, considering that, in general, you don't have *anything*
technically, this document hopes to provide you with at least 5. Be on
your best behavior, cooperate with the ORIGINATOR, and you should get
more. :)

Q. You mention compensation--do ORIGINATORs expect to be paid?
A. NO! (Well, they shouldn't...I can't definitely predict the
expectations of people) Compensation, as mentioned in this policy, is
meant first-and-foremost to be PROPER CREDIT. Academia has
historically and religiously provided credit when referencing all
types of works and research; the ISSUE provided by the ORIGINATOR
should also be thought of as research, and the ORIGINATOR should be
credited accordingly. Now, beyond that, it may be in the vendor's best
interest to promote good relations with the researcher, and one
suggested way is to provide updates and product licenses. A lot of
research is done on evaluation and trial versions of
software--providing a single, full license/copy should produce little
impact on the vendor, but greatly help the researcher. Another
suggestion is to allow access to support sites/technical content, such
as TechNet (if you happen to be Microsoft :)

\\\ Using this policy \\\

This policy is free for anyone to modify, republish, sell, or
otherwise use. The goal is to establish communication and interaction
amongst the security community (users, researchers, and vendors)--not
hamper it with copyrights and trademarks.

People are encouraged to use this policy or derivatives. You can make
use this policy by supplying the URL (found at the top of this
document) in the initial vendor contact email, and giving indication
that you intend to following the guidelines stated.

If you intend to be an ORIGINATOR, we suggest you prefix your advisory
sent to the MAINTAINER with something similar to:

"This advisory is being provided to you under the policy documented at
http://www.wiretrip.net/rfp/policy.html. You are encouraged to read
this policy; however, in the interim, you have approximately 5 days to
respond to this initial email. This policy encourages open
communication, and I look forward to working with you on resolving the
problem detailed below."

In addition, should the ORIGINATOR and MAINTAINER arrive at a unified
resolution and disclosure, it may be of interest to contact the CVE
officials (http://cve.mitre.org) to assign a CVE identifier to the
vulnerability. Doing so allows the vulnerability to be referenced and
cataloged, facilitating it's acceptance and use into the community.

\\\ Credits \\\

Since this is an important part of what this policy attempts to
achieve, I should follow the same advice. :)

Version 2 was drafted after extensive input of the community (some
400+ individual suggestions were received). Apologies for not listing
all 400+.

Thanks to the following people for initial concepts and input (version

Aleph1 [aleph1-at-securityfocus.com]
Steve Manzuik [steve-at-securesolutions.org]
Weld Pond [weld-at-atstake.com]
Russ Cooper [russ.cooper-at-rc.on.ca]

Special thanks to Russ Cooper for the large amounts of feedback that
helped shape version 1 of this policy.

- rain forest puppy [rfp-at-wiretrip.net]
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