“Google and Microsoft can’t outbid the US govt – they will never win a bidding war with the NSA”

Graham Cluley
Graham Cluley
@[email protected]

The Virus Bulletin 2012 (VB2012) conference opened in Dallas on Wednesday, with a keynote presentation by Christopher Soghoian taking a look at the murky world of the security exploit industry.

Soghoian has made a high profile name for himself, calling out technology firms for privacy and security issues but used the platform of VB2012’s opening address to raise the curtain on the market for selling security vulnerabilities to the highest bidder in a talk entitled “The trade in security exploits: free speech or weapons in need of regulation”.

According to Soghoian, famed hacker Charlie Miller was the first to admit selling security exploits to the US government, after discovering an exploitable security hole in the Samba server software.

In a phone call, Miller was told by the government agency that they weren’t able to name a price – but that the researcher should name a price instead.

Miller asked for $80,000 which was instantly accepted by the official on the other end of the line. “Oh man, I could have gotten a lot more,” Miller remembered in 2007.

Don’t feel too sorry for Miller, though. He did manage to furnish a brand new kitchen from the proceeds…

Read more in my article on the Naked Security website.

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Graham Cluley is a veteran of the cybersecurity industry, having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

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