Spectre and Meltdown

Critically analyze a real-world case study based on business law and ethics. Instructions Carefully review the following case study and the two scenarios presented. Be mindful that you are weighing business interests against ethical and legal obligations. Read The Vulnerability Disclosure Debate Introduction The debate over “responsible” disclosure of software vulnerabilities has been a mainstay in the security space. In 2015, new fuel was added to the fire as Google disclosed a Microsoft Windows vulnerability, along with exploit code, two days before the scheduled patch. (Exploit code is the stretch of code that hackers can exploit And in 2018, the debate came back into the forefront with the infamous Intel Spectre and Meltdown chip problems. The Google-Microsoft conflict highlights the issues that can arise between companies around disclosure. The Spectre and Meltdown flaws show how vulnerabilities can pit companies against the U.S. government and consumers. Company v. Company Disclosure Debate In 2015, the bug was found by Google’s in-house security research team, which searches for vulnerabilities in Google software, as well as that of other vendors, including Microsoft. Upon finding a vulnerability, Google adheres to a strict 90-day policy: Vendors are notified of the bug, and a public disclosure is automatically released 90 days after, regardless of whether the bug has been addressed. Microsoft initially asked for an extension beyond the 90 days, which was denied by Google, as was a request to extend the disclosure date to the first “Patch Tuesday” of the month (the second Tuesday of the month, and preferred release date for patches for developers). Microsoft criticized Google in a blog post, accusing the company’s decision of being a “gotcha” opportunity, and at the expense of the users, who were at risk for the two days between the disclosure and the patch release. Microsoft reiterated its support for “Coordinated Vulnerability Disclosure,” which calls for security researchers to work closely with developers in ensuring a fix is released before the public disclosure. Google, and supporters of similar disclosure policies, argue that firm disclosure dates prevent developers from sweeping vulnerabilities under the rug, and should strike a balance between the public’s right to know and providing the developer a chance to fix the problem. Many take an even harder stance and propose that immediate public disclosure is the best policy.

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