Is Vupen black hat or white hat?
I was talking to GFI Software about the new patch management module added to their VIPRE Business product – but as so often happens in interesting conversations we got side-tracked. Since patches are often forced by researchers’ vulnerability disclosures, I asked GFI for its position on full vs responsible disclosure. This led to the difference between black hat and white hat researchers: basically, Jong (Jong Purisima, antivirus lab manager) told me, “black hat researchers sell their vulnerabilities for money, while white hat researchers report the vulnerability to help the user be more secure and gain the kudos for the discovery.”
Incidentally, as a vendor, GFI would like a couple of days prior warning before a white hat researcher goes public, but believes that a fortnight is more than reasonable – a refreshing attitude compared to the ‘don’t ever disclose’ hysteria promoted by some vendors.
Anyway, a black hat researcher sells his discoveries to make money. So where does that put Vupen? Vupen is a sort of zero-day broker. It buys or develops zero-day exploits and sells them to governments. We are told it doesn’t sell them to anyone else; but that is pretty difficult to prove or disprove. (Even there, given the US Olympic Games project, and the Stuxnet and Flame episodes, there seems little difference between governments and criminal gangs anyway.)
So that’s the question. Is Vupen black hat or white hat? John said, “technically, they’re black hat.” Mark (Mark Patton, general manager of the Security Business Unit) suggested, “Grey hat? Perhaps dark grey hat?” To me, Vupen is simply a black-as-night hat. Any takers?