AUGUST 09, 2004 (COMPUTERWORLD) -
Oracle Corp.'s ongoing effort to portray itself as a vendor
of "unbreakable" technology received a setback last week when a
British bug hunter disclosed that he had found 34 security
vulnerabilities in the database vendor's products.
The flaws include several that could allow malicious attackers
to gain complete administrative control of compromised database
servers, claimed David Litchfield, managing director of Surrey,
England-based Next Generation Security Software Ltd.
"They include buffer overflows, SQL injection issues and a
whole range of other minor issues," said Litchfield. He said that
he reported them to Oracle in January and February following his
"Some of them can be exploited without a user ID and password,
while others require them," Litchfield said. He refused to provide
further details of the flaws, citing his concern that doing so
before patches are distributed could pose a security risk for
Some users defended Oracle's security record.
"I'm always very concerned about any flaws," said Howard
Muffler, director of enterprise services at Embry-Riddle
Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla. But the university,
which licenses a wide range of Oracle products, has had few
security issues with them so far, Muffler said. "Oracle has always
done a very good job of addressing security flaws and addressing
them swiftly," he said.
Oracle is "incredibly quick to respond to any security issue,"
agreed Rich Niemiec, former president of the International Oracle
Users Group and CEO of TUSC, a Chicago-based consultancy. "There
will always be issues that arise, given the complexity of the
software," but Oracle has been diligent in finding and fixing
them, he said.
According to Litchfield, Oracle told him that patches were
available to fix the problems a few months ago. But the company
appears to be waiting for an updated patching process to become
ready before releasing the fixes, he said.
"It is my opinion that they could have run the old patching
process up until the time that the new patching procedure was
ready. There really is no point in exposing users to unnecessary
risks," he said.
Oracle last week confirmed the existence of the flaws but
refused to provide any further details. A company spokeswoman said
Oracle had fixed the flaws and would issue a security alert
"Security is a matter we take seriously at Oracle, and while we
stand firmly behind the inherent security of our products, we are
always working to do better," she said.
News of the latest flaws came about two months after Oracle
warned users of a major flaw in its Oracle 11i E-Business Suite
and Oracle Applications 11.0 that could let attackers take control
of the underlying database.
Even so, Oracle's database is by "leaps and bounds" more secure
than competing products, said Don Burleson, president of Burleson
Consulting in Kittrell, N.C., and author of several books on the
security of Oracle products. He said the newly disclosed flaws are
unlikely to pose an immediate threat. "Litchfield has made it his
life's mission to find flaws in Oracle's technology," Burleson
said, adding that most of the flaws are obscure and not easy to