Dagger in the heart of OpenSSL
Summary: A serious conflict of interests that nobody in the media is talking about; Codenomicon is headed by Microsoft’s Howard A. Schmidt
SOMETHING fishy was in the news today (since early this morning), including articles from GNU/Linux-oriented journalists  and blogs , some of which pointed out that a vulnerability discovered and published irresponsibly by the firm headed by Microsoft’s former Chief Security Officer (we wrote about his actions before) are already “patched by all Linux distros”.
Now, looking at the site set up by his firm, you might not know this. It lists the names of many GNU/Linux distributions along with a nasty picture (the one above). This coordinated release (disclosure) of a vulnerability on the last day of Windows XP security patches (they are through unless one pays Microsoft a lot of money) is rather suspicious to us. It came with a trademark-like name, a dot-com Web site (yes
.com), and soon we are guaranteed to see lots of FUD saying that GNU/Linux is not secure. We already know that the vulnerabilities industry is well inside Microsoft’s board and at highest level (look at John Thompson from Symantec; he is now Microsoft’s new chairman).
We don’t need to wait for the Microsoft press or a whisper campaign to use Heartbleed® to tell people (again) that Free software, Linux and GNU are very “bad” and are a danger for the Web (some suspect that this bug is the result of NSA intervention in code development — a subject we’ll tackle another day for sure).
“This is a man whose high-paying job required that he beats GNU/Linux at security.”Jacon Appelbaum (of Tor) says that this release was coordinated (with a date and everything) but not responsible at all because even the OpenSSL site, the FBI’s official site (whom Howard Schmidt worked with) and many more remain vulnerable. It should be noted that the flaw has existed for two years, so the timing of this disclosure is interesting. Not too long ago we showed what seemed like Microsoft's role in a campaign to paint GNU/Linux insecure and dangerous becuase of Windows XP's EOL. It was a baseless campaign of FUD, media manipulation, and distortion of facts, ignoring, as always, the elephant in the room (Windows).
For those who treat it like some innocent development at a random time in the news, remember that Howard A. Schmidt, the Chairman of the Board of Codenomicon, was the Chief Security Officer for Microsoft. He joined Codenomicon a year and a half ago. This is irresponsible disclosure and journalists who ignore the conflict of interests (namely Schmidt being the head after serving Microsoft) are equally irresponsible (for irresponsible journalism). They may unwittingly be playing a role in a “Scroogled”-like campaign.
Just go to Codenomicon’s Web site and find it described in large fonts as “A Member of the Microsoft Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) Pro Network” (in many pages). There are lots of pages like this one about involvement in Microsoft SDL.
So to summarise, what does Microsoft have to do with Heartbleed? We probably need to ask Howard Schmidt. This is a man whose high-paying job required that he beats GNU/Linux at security. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
A new vulnerability was announced in OpenSSL 1.0.1 that allows an attacker to reveal up to 64kB of memory to a connected client or server (CVE-2014-0160) which may consist of our X.509 certificates, user names and passwords, instant messages, emails and business critical documents and communication. According to OpenSSL Security Advisory report Neel Mehta from Google Security has discovered this bug.