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Vulnerability Disclosure Policy

The federal Judiciary is committed to ensuring the security of the American public by protecting their information. On behalf of the federal Judiciary, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC) intends this policy to give security researchers clear guidelines for conducting vulnerability discovery activities and to convey our preferences in how to submit discovered vulnerabilities to us.

This policy describes what systems and types of research are covered under this policy, how to send us vulnerability reports, and how long we ask security researchers to wait before publicly disclosing vulnerabilities.

We encourage you to contact us to report potential vulnerabilities in our systems.

Authorization

If you make a good faith effort to comply with this policy during your security research, we will consider your research to be authorized. We will work with you to understand and resolve the issue quickly, and the federal Judiciary will not recommend or pursue legal action related to your research. Should legal action be initiated by a third party against you for activities that were conducted in accordance with this policy, we will make this authorization known.

Guidelines

Under this policy, “research” means activities in which you:

  • Notify us as soon as possible after you discover a real or potential security issue.
  • Make every effort to avoid privacy violations, degradation of user experience, disruption to production systems, and destruction or manipulation of data.
  • Only use exploits to the extent necessary to confirm a vulnerability’s presence. Do not use an exploit to compromise or exfiltrate data, establish persistent command line access, or use the exploit to pivot to other systems.
  • Provide us a reasonable amount of time to resolve the issue before you disclose it publicly.
  • Do not submit a high volume of low-quality reports.

Once you’ve established that a vulnerability exists or encounter any sensitive data (including personally identifiable information, financial information, or proprietary information or trade secrets of any party), you must stop your test, notify us immediately, and not disclose this data to anyone else.

Test methods

Researchers must comply with the following test method restrictions:

  • Researchers may not conduct network denial of service (DoS or DDoS) tests or other tests that impair access to or damage a system or data.
  • Researchers may not conduct physical testing or social engineering, including spear phishing, of federal Judiciary personnel or contractors.
  • Researchers may not intentionally compromise the privacy or safety of federal Judiciary personnel (e.g. employees, contractors, or parties to ongoing investigations) or any third parties.
  • Researchers may not intentionally compromise the intellectual property or other commercial or financial interests of any federal Judiciary personnel or entities or any third parties through their research.
  • Researchers may not publicly disclose any details of the vulnerability, indicator of vulnerability, or the content of information rendered available by a vulnerability, until that vulnerability is remediated and they receive explicit written authorization from the AOUSC IT Security Office.
  • Researchers must not intentionally exfiltrate or copy federal Judiciary data, or open, take, or delete files. Should researchers obtain U.S. Courts data during their research, they must coordinate with the AOUSC IT Security Office to ensure that data is appropriately destroyed upon confirmation that the vulnerability is remediated.
  • Researchers must not establish command line access and/or persistence, pivot to other systems, escalate privileges, attempt to move laterally within the network, disrupt access to federal Judiciary services, or introduce any malware in the course of testing.

Scope

This policy applies to the following systems and services:

Any service not expressly listed above, such as any connected services, are excluded from scope and are not authorized for testing. Additionally, vulnerabilities found in systems from our vendors fall outside of this policy’s scope and should be reported directly to the vendor according to their disclosure policy (if any). If you aren’t sure whether a system is in scope or not, contact us at support@responsibledisclosure.com (or at the security contact for the system’s domain name listed in the .gov WHOIS) before starting your research.

Though we develop and maintain other internet-accessible systems or services, we ask that active research and testing only be conducted on the systems and services covered by the scope of this document. If there is a particular system not in scope that you think merits testing, contact us at support@responsibledisclosure.com to discuss it first. We will increase the scope of this policy over time.

Reporting a vulnerability

We accept vulnerability reports at https://uscourts.responsibledisclosure.com. Reports may be submitted anonymously. We do not support PGP-encrypted emails.

Information submitted under this policy will be used for defensive purposes only – to mitigate or remediate vulnerabilities. If your findings include a zero-day or any newly discovered vulnerabilities that affect all users of a product or service and not solely the federal Judiciary, we may share your report with the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, where it will be handled under their coordinated vulnerability disclosure process. We will not share your name or contact information without express permission.

If a vulnerability is discovered, researchers must provide a detailed summary of the vulnerability, including the following:

  • description of the vulnerability and its potential impact;
  • product, version, and configuration of any software or hardware potentially impacted;
  • step-by-step instructions to reproduce the issue;
  • proof-of-concept; and
  • suggested mitigation or remediation actions, as appropriate. 

By clicking “Submit Report,” we will presume that the submitter read, understands, and agrees to the guidelines described in this policy, and consents to having any subsequent communications with the federal Judiciary stored on a U.S. Government information system. Personal data submitted in a vulnerability disclosure report will not be retained by the federal Judiciary, other than contact information that will only be retained in order to coordinate with the researcher.

By submitting a vulnerability, you acknowledge that you have no expectation of payment and that you expressly waive any future pay claims against the U.S. Government related to your submission.

What you can expect from us

When you choose to share your contact information with us, we commit to coordinating with you as openly and as quickly as possible.

  • Within 5 business days, we will acknowledge that your report has been received.
  • To the best of our ability, we will confirm the existence of the vulnerability to you and be as transparent as possible about what steps we are taking during the remediation process, including on issues or challenges that may delay resolution.
  • We will maintain an open dialogue to discuss issues.

Activities Outside the Scope of this Policy

The federal Judiciary does not authorize, permit, or otherwise allow (expressly or impliedly) any person, including any individual, group of individuals, consortium, partnership, or any other business or legal entity, to engage in any security research or vulnerability or threat disclosure activity on or affecting federal Judiciary systems that is inconsistent with this policy or the law. If you engage in any activities that are inconsistent with this policy or other applicable law, you may be subject to criminal and/or civil liabilities.

To the extent that any security research or vulnerability disclosure activity involves the networks, systems, information, applications, products, or services of a non-federal Judiciary entity (e.g., other federal departments or agencies; state, local, or Tribal governments; private sector companies or persons; employees or personnel of any such entities; or any other such third party), those third parties may independently determine whether to pursue legal action or remedies related to such activities.

This policy does not in any way limit the authority of the United States Attorneys to pursue legal action. Nor will actions taken in accordance with this policy shield an individual from prosecution for any previous or future violations of the law.

Modification or Termination of this Policy

The federal Judiciary may modify the terms of this policy or terminate the policy at any time.

Questions

Questions regarding this policy may be sent to support@responsibledisclosure.com. We also invite you to contact us with suggestions for improving this policy.

Policy issued on Oct. 13, 2021.