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Date: Tue, 17 Feb 2004 08:35:14 +1300 (NZDT)
From: Simon Brady <>
To: John Compton <>
Subject: Re: Misinformation in Security Advisories (ASN.1)

On Mon, 16 Feb 2004, John Compton wrote:

> First of all, there is good news for those of you out there who are
> worried about the new ASN.1 vulnerability in Microsoft operating
> systems. It is NOT exploitable to run arbitrary code in anything
> approaching a real-world scenario.

With all due respect, doesn't your argument for this claim boil down to "I 
can't see a way to exploit it therefore it can't be exploitable?". This is 
hardly a compelling case for sysadmins not to patch, particularly when 
we're hearing other self-proclaimed experts contradicting your claim.

Maybe you're right, but I would be professionally negligent to leave my 
employer's systems unpatched based on the case you've presented. My job is 
to minimise risk to our operations and maximise confidence in the 
integrity of our systems: I'm not about to wait to be compromised so I can 
say "oh look, it was exploitable after all - I guess patching is justified 

Like it or not, our line of work is all about dealing with uncertainty and
making tough calls based on insufficient evidence. I too would like to see
a single, clearly authoritative advisory on any given security issue, but
that doesn't seem likely out here in the real world.

Simon Brady                   
ITS Technical Services
University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

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