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Novell's New Security Alerts Policy

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Posted: 16 Aug 2002
 

In light of increased customer interest in Internet-related security and the migration of Novell's products to the Internet Protocol, Novell is taking steps to better inform our customers and partners about security alerts. In today's world, network systems are facing many more attacks than ever before. Customers who use our products (and, for that matter, other vendors' products) have to work harder to secure their systems from attack. This new policy is one way to help customers keep on top of their systems maintenance, and to know what patches should be installed and precautions taken with our products.

The Policy

Generally, Novell will provide information to the public (both customers and non-customers) about real or potential security vulnerabilities in our products along with recommended corrective actions, patches and other guidance, as those corrective actions become available; accordingly, we won't disclose information about theoretical or unsolved (nor unsolvable) problems until a workaround or product ?fix? is available.

There is one exception to this general policy. For any given security vulnerability, Novell reserves the right to provide information in a time and manner that we determine based on the surrounding circumstances.

For example, one circumstance may be when we're aware of a problem but other vendors afflicted with the same problem have not yet had the opportunity to address the issue in their own products. Such circumstances will usually arise in conjunction with our work with CERT (http://www.cert.org) or other multi-vendor forums.

Where to Look for Alerts

Novell will publish security alerts to CERT (http://www.cert.org), Bugtraq (http://online.securityfocus.com/archive/1), our own security-focused web site (http://support.novell.com/security-alerts) and other suitable public forums that become well known to our customers and us.

In the past, customers could find information about fixes to security-related problems, but we didn't make it particularly easy for customers to find the information. That is what is changed. Now, customers will be able to go to a single Novell Support site to find security-related fixes for their Novell products.

Some people believe it will pose risks to our customers if we openly publish information about vulnerabilities. However, we believe the risks to customers are the vulnerabilities themselves. Novell intends to notify customers about the fixes they should apply to help protect themselves from those vulnerabilities. It's every customer's responsibility to maintain (and secure) its own systems and to keep its Novell products up-to-date by applying security-related patches. Novell cannot commit to keeping products free of security flaws, but Novell is committed to providing a process to be used when a product is suspected of having security problems.

How to Report Security Issues

If you find suspected vulnerabilities in a Novell product, please report them. The new web site, http://support.novell.com/security-alerts, has a form that can be used to submit information about a suspected problem. In addition, reports can be made to secure@novell.com via e-mail.

Note: You do not need to have a support contract in order to report a problem.


Reader Reactions to this Policy

  • Russell C.: As someone who has been pushing for Novell to take this step for a while now, I welcome the move with open arms.

    While security vulnerabilities in NetWare and other Novell products tend to be few and far between, we need a place where fact can be separated from fiction, where reports can be logged and where the status of reported vulnerabilities can be tracked. We also need all of this to be managed in a central place, and the best place to do this is on the vendor's site.


  • Thomas H.: Great idea to report security issues and alerts. However, I would like to see a subscription list for the alerts and have them e-mailed directly to me or the CNEs on my staff.
    [Editor's Note: they are planning to add this service in the future.]


  • Kent H.: Your approach seems appropriate to me. Now just focus on building un-flawed products in the first place and we'll all be better off!


  • Frank B.: I'll believe it when I see it.

    The GroupWise Padlock issue was overhyped. A later issue with LDAP authentications into GroupWise post offices being permissible with blank passwords was totally glossed over and never announced by Novell, except ever so slight in a beta fix for the PostOffice. We were totally exposed.

    Make me a believer.


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