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Oracle Hackers exposing Oracle vulnerabilities: unethical or prudent?

Oracle Commentary by Donald BurlesonDecember 9, 2015


When discussing the public exposure of Oracle vulnerabilities, opinions about those who publicize hacking techniques.  Some suggest that the hacking expert is doing a public service while others believe that exposing an Oracle vulnerability enables an unethical DBA to hack into a database. 

Sadly, not all database professionals have scruples, as we see in these real-world examples of Oracle hacker horror stories. 

While publically exposing vulnerabilities may be illegal in parts of the United States (the crime of aiding and abetting), there are some European Oracle "researchers" who offer "black hat" and "secret" Oracle hacking tutorials.

The question is none of ethics and whether there is any legitimate use for the disclosure of Oracle vulnerabilities?  Oracle Corporation responds with a resounding NO!

According to this eWeek article, Oracle Corporation condemned a hacker as being selfish and irresponsible for putting Oracle customers at "severe risk":

"A few hours after [the hacker] went public with a technical description of the flaw, including a blow-by-blow demonstration of ease in which an attack could occur,

Oracle lashed back, accusing the British researcher of putting its customers at severe risk for selfish, irresponsible reasons."

Most Oracle DBA's agree that it is best to quietly work with Oracle on a patch before publishing details on any bug, but there are vulnerabilities that are not within the purview of Oracle, vulnerabilities in 3rd party products.

In these cases, most professionals would find that exposing a non-Oracle vulnerability to be encouraged, provided that they no not expect that the publication could be used by criminals.
 

Is publishing Oracle hacks aiding and abetting a criminal?

Ethics aside, we must ask if publishing an Oracle hack constitutes a crime, anywhere in the world where the article might be read.  In the USA, the FindLaw definition for aiding and abetting a criminal, publically exposing an Oracle hack appears to fit the definition for "secret" and black hat" Oracle hacking:

"A criminal charge of aiding and abetting or accessory can usually be brought against anyone who helps in the commission of a crime, though legal distinctions vary by state.

A person charged with aiding and abetting or accessory is usually not present when the crime itself is committed, but he or she has knowledge of the crime before or after the fact, and may assist in its commission through advice.

While not all of the Oracle hackers have ill intent, many are aiding and abetting criminals by publically exposing vulnerabilities within the Oracle software.

Despite claims of some self-proclaimed European Oracle experts, a properly installed and configured Oracle cannot be hacked, even with the most sophisticated methods.

Recent Internet law has indicated that web authors are responsible for what they publish that causes harm, anywhere in the world. 

If your shop gets hacked because of information published by an Oracle hacking expert, you may want to seek the advice of your local attorney Generals office to see if the advice of the hacker warrants arrest and prosecution.
 
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