“Should We Talk About Security Holes? An Old View”

Michael Sikorski, @mikesiko, tweeted a quote forwarded by @SteveBellovin in a discussion about open sharing and discussion of malware.

The quote was an image and didn’t reduce well for display. I located the source of the quote and quote the text below.

Rudimentary Treatise on the Construction of Door Locks: For Commercial and Domestic Purposes : with Mr. Smyth’s Letter on the Bramah Locks by J. Weale (by the book’s pagination, starting on page 2 and ending on page 4).

A commercial, and in some respects a social, doubt has been started within the last year or two, whether or not is it right to discuss so openly the security or insecurity of locks. Many well-meaning persons suppose that discussion respecting the means for baffling the supposed safety of locks offers a premium for dishonesty, by shewing others how to be dishonest. This is a fallacy. Rogues are very keen in their profession, and know already much more than we can teach them respecting their several kinds of roguery. Rogues knew a good deal about lock-picking long before locksmiths discussed it among themselves, as they have lately done. If a lock—let it have been made in whatever country, or by whatever maker—is not so inviolate as it has hitherto been deemed to be, surely it is in the interest of honest persons to know this fact, because the dishonest are tolerably certain to be the first to apply the knowledge practically; and the spread of the knowledge is necessary to give fair play to those who might suffer by ignorance. It cannot be too earnestly urged, that an acquaintance with real facts will, in the end, be better for all parties. Some time ago, when the reading public was alarmed at being told how London milk is adulterated, timid persons deprecated the exposure, on the plea that it would give instructions in the art of adulterating milk; a vain fear—milkmen knew all about it before, whether they practiced it or not; and the exposure only taught purchasers the necessity of a little scrutiny and caution, leaving them to obey this necessity or not, as they pleased. So likewise in respect to bread, sugar, coffee, tea, wine, beer, spirits, vinegar, cheap silks, cheap wollens—all such articles are susceptible of debasement by admixture with cheaper substances—much more good than harm is effected by stating candidly and scientifically the various methods by which debasement has been, or can be produced. The unscrupulous have the command of much of this kind of knowledge without our aid; and there is moral and commercial justice in placing on their guard those who might possibly suffer therefrom. We employ these stray expressions concerning adulteration, debasement, roguery, and so forth, simply as a mode of illustrating a principle—the advantage of publicity. In respect to lock-making there can scarcely be such a thing as dishonesty of intention: the inventor produces a lock which he honestly thinks will possess such and such qualities; and he declares his belief to the world. If others differ from him in opinion concerning those qualities, it is open for them to say so; and the discussion, truthfully conducted, must lead to public advantage: the discussion stimulates curiosity, and the curiosity stimulates invention. Nothing but a partial and limited view of the question could lead to the opinion that harm can result: if there be harm, it will be much more than counterbalanced by good.

More to follow but here’s a question to ponder:

Can you name one benefit that white hats gain by not sharing vulnerability information?

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