Don’t shoot the messenger! A criminological and computer science perspective on coordinated vulnerability disclosure


In the computer science field coordinated vulnerability disclosure is a well-known practice for finding flaws in IT-systems and patching them. In this practice, a white-hat hacker who finds a vulnerability in an IT-system reports that vulnerability to the system’s owner. The owner will then resolve the problem, after which the vulnerability will be disclosed publicly. This practice generally does not focus on potential offenders or black-hat hackers who would likely exploit the vulnerability instead of reporting it. In this paper, we take an interdisciplinary approach and review the current coordinated vulnerability disclosure practice from both a computer science and criminological perspective. We discuss current issues in this practice that could influence the decision to use coordinated vulnerability disclosure versus exploiting a vulnerability. Based on different motives, a rational choice or cost–benefit analyses of the possible reactions after finding a vulnerability will be discussed. Subsequently, implications for practice and future research suggestions are included.

Crime Science, An Interdisciplinary Journal, 2018, 7:16