Q: These researchers have discussed their desire to maintain secrecy so that the hammer of legal action couldn't be used to prevent publication. Does VeriSign intend to sue these researchers?
A: Security researchers who behave ethically have no reason to fear legal action from VeriSign. Since its inception VeriSign has been one of the world's leading forces for online security, and the company has consistently used its resources and expertise to assist online security's progress. In fact, VeriSign is itself a white-hat security research firm (through our widely respected iDefense Labs), and we understand the concept of "ethical hacking." We're disappointed that these researchers did not share their results with us earlier, but we're happy to report that we have completely mitigated this attack.
Apparently the researchers disclosed to MS and Mozilla but refused to talk to Verisign for fear of preemptive legal action. I have to say that I can't blame them for being skittish. There is plenty of evidence in general that large companies will use their resources to go after security researchers making claims they want to silence. Microsoft and Mozilla are the exceptions. They are among the few companies who really do get security and deal with it very responsibly and professionally. I'm not sure Verisign's association with iDefense puts them in the same category.
The Sitefinder debacle was an absolutely outrageous abuse of power that sort of overshadows any good they might have done in the past. They made it absolutely clear in the midst of that incident that they don't care what technical professionals think about their company. I believe their CEO Stratton Sclavos used the word "zealots" in a news media interview to refer to people who disagreed with their actions. I'm pretty sure a frivolous lawsuit against a handful of "hackers" that has no basis in law would cause a less widespread outcry. If you are willing to do the one there is no reason why you wouldn't do the other.
Sclavos may be gone, but its going to take a hell of a lot more than complaining about not being in the loop before the sort of people he called "zealots" will be willing to trust the company he used to operate.
Tim Callan's SSL Blog - Online Security