Jeremiah posted these questions on dealing with website vulnerabilities. Here are my quick answers (I have to run- sorry for the lack of links, but you can Google the examples):

Lets assume a company is informed of a SQLi or XSS vulnerability in their website (I know, shocker) either privately or via public disclosure on And that vulnerability potentially places private personal information (PPI) or intellectual property at risk of compromise. My questions are: 1) Is the company “legally” obligated to fix the issue or can they just accept the risk? Think SOX, GLBA, HIPAA, PCI-DSS, etc.

Definitely no for intellectual property. Definitely no for SOX- SOX says you’re free to make as many dumb mistakes and lose as much money as you want, as long as you report it accurately. Other laws are a toss-up, but generally there is no obligation unless there is evidence that a breach occurred. For PCI-DSS you have to remediate or document compensating controls for any network vulnerabilities at the time of your audit (and this expands to applications with 1.1), but there is no definitive requirement for immediate remediation. California AB1950 is the big question mark in this area and I’m unsure on enforcement mechanisms.

The regulations are very unclear and unhelpful here, and it’s quite likely a company can accept the risk. But if a breach occurs, they may be held negligent. Take a look at the PetCo case where the FTC mandated a security program after a breach, and Microsoft/MSN. The companies were held liable for losing customer data, but not because of any of the usual regulations.

There is almost no case law that I’m aware of.

2) What if repairs require a significant time/money investment? Is there a resolution grace period, does the company have to install compensating controls, or must they shutdown the website while repairs are made?

No. Most regulations only require breach notification or remediation of flaws discovered through auditing. Reasonable person theory probably applies if there is a breach with losses and it goes to court. I’ve read all of the regulations- none mention a specific time period.

3) Should an incident occur exploiting the aforementioned vulnerability, does the company bear any additional legal liability?

They may carry liability due to negligence. See the cases I mentioned above.

4) If the company’s website is PCI-DSS certified, is the website still be considered certified after the point of disclosure given what the web application security sections dictate?

Unknown because there are no public cases that I can find. I believe you remain certified until the next audit. In the case of Cardsystems, they were PCI certified when the breach occurred and immediately re-audited and de-certified following public disclosure of the breach. That’s one problem with PCI-DSS- it’s very audit-reliant and changes between audits don’t directly affect certification.

5) Does the QSA or ASV who certified the website potentially risk any PCI Council disciplinary action for certifying a non-compliant website? What happens if this becomes a pattern?

No known cases of disciplinary action, but an audit insider might know of one. Disciplinary action will most likely only take place if the audit failed to follow best practices and a large breach occurs, or if there is (as you mention) a pattern. None of this is formalized to my knowledge.

I’ve spent a lot of time researching and discussing all the various data protection and breach disclosure regulations. Organizations generally only face potential liability if they either falsify documentation for auditing or certification, or suffer a breach and are later shown to be negligent. I am unaware of legal enforcement mechanisms if there is a known vulnerability, but no definitively unapproved disclosure of information.

This is an inherent risk of audit-based approaches to data protection.