VeriSign's iDefense Labs has placed an $8,000 bounty on remote code execution holes in Windows Vista and Internet Explorer 7. The Reston, Va., security intelligence outfit threw out the monetary reward to hackers as part of a challenge program aimed at luring researchers to its controversial pay-for-flaw VCP (Vulnerability Contributor Program).
The launch of the latest hacking challenge comes less than a month after researchers at Trend Micro discovered Vista flaws being hawked on underground sites at $50,000 a pop and illustrates the growth of the market for information on software vulnerabilities.
iDefense isn't the only brand-name player in the market. 3Com's TippingPoint runs a similar program, called Zero Day Initiative, that pays researchers who agree to give up exclusive rights to advance notification of unpublished vulnerabilities or exploit code.
The companies act as intermediaries in the disclosure process—handling the process of coordinating with the affected vendor—and use the vulnerability information to beef up protection mechanisms in their own security software, which is sold to third parties.
"Both Microsoft Internet Explorer and Microsoft Windows dominate their respective markets, and it is not surprising that the decision to update to the current release of Internet Explorer 7.0 and/or Windows Vista is fraught with uncertainty. Primary in the minds of IT security professionals is the question of vulnerabilities that may be present in these two groundbreaking products," iDefense said in a note announcing the bounty. The company said the motive of the challenge is to "help assuage this uncertainty."