How Open Should Open Source Be?

Adam Barth, Saung Li, Benjamin I. P. Rubinstein and Dawn Song

EECS Department
University of California, Berkeley
Technical Report No. UCB/EECS-2011-98
August 31, 2011

http://www.eecs.berkeley.edu/Pubs/TechRpts/2011/EECS-2011-98.pdf

Many open-source projects land security fixes in public repositories before shipping these patches to users. This paper presents attacks on such projects-taking Firefox as a case-study—that exploit patch metadata to efficiently search for security patches prior to shipping. Using access-restricted bug reports linked from patch descriptions, security patches can be immediately identified for 260 out of 300 days of Firefox 3 development. In response to Mozilla obfuscating descriptions, we show that machine learning can exploit metadata such as patch author to search for security patches, extending the total window of vulnerability by 5 months in an 8 month period when examining up to two patches daily. Finally we present strong evidence that further metadata obfuscation is unlikely to prevent information leaks, and we argue that open-source projects instead ought to keep security patches secret until they are ready to be released.


BibTeX citation:

@techreport{Barth:EECS-2011-98,
    Author = {Barth, Adam and Li, Saung and Rubinstein, Benjamin I. P. and Song, Dawn},
    Title = {How Open Should Open Source Be?},
    Institution = {EECS Department, University of California, Berkeley},
    Year = {2011},
    Month = {Aug},
    URL = {http://www.eecs.berkeley.edu/Pubs/TechRpts/2011/EECS-2011-98.html},
    Number = {UCB/EECS-2011-98},
    Abstract = {Many open-source projects land security fixes in public repositories before shipping these patches to users. This paper presents attacks on such projects-taking Firefox as a case-study—that exploit patch metadata to efficiently search for security patches prior to shipping. Using access-restricted bug reports linked from patch descriptions, security patches can be immediately identified for 260 out of 300 days of Firefox 3 development. In response to Mozilla obfuscating descriptions, we show that machine learning can exploit metadata such as patch author to search for security patches, extending the total window of vulnerability by 5 months in an 8 month period when examining up to two patches daily. Finally we present strong evidence that further metadata obfuscation is unlikely to prevent information leaks, and we argue that open-source projects instead ought to keep security patches secret until they are ready to be released.}
}

EndNote citation:

%0 Report
%A Barth, Adam
%A Li, Saung
%A Rubinstein, Benjamin I. P.
%A Song, Dawn
%T How Open Should Open Source Be?
%I EECS Department, University of California, Berkeley
%D 2011
%8 August 31
%@ UCB/EECS-2011-98
%U http://www.eecs.berkeley.edu/Pubs/TechRpts/2011/EECS-2011-98.html
%F Barth:EECS-2011-98