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Date: Sat, 15 Jun 2019 14:57:19 -0700
From: Alan Coopersmith <>
        "David A. Wheeler"
Subject: Re: Thousands of vulnerabilities, almost no CVEs:

As one of the maintainers of a pile of packages included in pretty much every
Linux distro (the X.Org libraries, clients, servers, & drivers), which has had
a fair number of CVE's, I would love to do all of these - and we do what we can
now (mostly 1 & 3).   We're not ignoring the rest - we just don't have enough
contributors to do all that, and I know we're far from the only FOSS project
with this problem.

This is a lot of work, and when the people making money off the software aren't
using that money to pay for this work, they can't be surprised when it doesn't
get done.

	-Alan Coopersmith-    
	  X.Org Security Response Team -

On 6/15/19 1:54 PM, David A. Wheeler wrote:
> I think that's fair, but I think projects have their part to play too:
> 1. Projects should work much harder at avoiding backwards-incompatible changes.
>    Some projects (though *not* the Linux kernel) seem to take a very
>    cavalier attitude to breaking changes.  Yes, change is sometimes necessary,
>    but projects need to work harder at providing graceful upgrades.
>    (Slow deprecations, providing altenative differently-named 'new' interfaces
>    with different semantics that let people gradually transition, and so on).
>    IN PARTICULAR: I believe the primary reason that distros
>    often backport, instead of using the "current" version, is because their
>    users correctly fear backwards-incompatible changes. If projects would stop
>    being the problem, then distros wouldn't feel the need to solve the problem.
> 2. Everyone needs test suites to detect problems from changes & upgrades.
>    Since everyone is making changes, including upgrading components,
>    everyone should have test suites to detect problems before they ship.
>    Then upgrading will be much easier and less likely to cause problems.
> 3. Projects should be using static analysis tools to detect problems
>    ahead-of-time.  Yes, they have false positives and false negatives.
>    Be kind to your users, and use tools to help find & fix the bugs
>    instead of inflicting them on your users.
> 4. Input validation, input validation, input validation.
>     If projects' software would be pickier about what they accept,
>     many vulnerabilities and bugs wouldn't have a chance.
> 5. Apply other good security techniques, like hardening against
>     the inevitable problems.
> 6. I'd like to see more projects fuzzing themselves before they ship.
>    I'm probably dreaming on this point, but I can dream :-).
> These won't solve everything, but it will reduce the trauma.
> Many of these points are covered by the CII Best Practices badge.
> I encourage OSS projects to work to get a badge:
> (Full disclosure: I lead that project.  But I hope it's useful anyway :-) .)
> I'm not revealing any grand new ideas.  They're kind of basic.
> However, they seem to be ignored by too many projects today.
> I think if more projects would "do unto others as you
> would have them do unto you", then handling
> this stuff would be a lot less painful :-).
> --- David A. Wheeler

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