Vulnerabilities Equities Policy and Process for the United States Government [Charter]

Editor’s Note: The explanatory White House Blog post about the VEP is available here.

From: The White House

1. Purpose

This document describes the Vulnerabilities Equities Policy and Process for departments and agencies of the United States Government (USG) to balance equities and make determinations regarding disclosure or restriction when the USG obtains knowledge of newly discovered and not publicly known vulnerabilities in information systems and technologies. The primary focus of this policy is to prioritize the public’s interest in cybersecurity and to protect core Internet infrastructure, information systems, critical infrastructure systems, and the U.S. economy through the disclosure of vulnerabilities discovered by the USG, absent a demonstrable, overriding interest in the use of the vulnerability for lawful intelligence, law enforcement, or national security purposes.

The Vulnerabilities Equities Process (VEP) balances whether to disseminate vulnerability information to the vendor/supplier in the expectation that it will be patched, or to temporarily restrict the knowledge of the vulnerability to the USG, and potentially other partners, so that it can be used for national security and law enforcement purposes, such as intelligence collection, military operations, and/or counterintelligence. The U.S. Government’s determination as to whether to disseminate or restrict a vulnerability is only one element of the vulnerability equities evaluation process and is not always a binary determination. Other options that can be considered include disseminating mitigation information to certain entities without disclosing the particular vulnerability, limiting use of the vulnerability by the USG in some way, informing U.S. and allied government entities of the vulnerability at a classified level, and using indirect means to inform the vendor of the vulnerability. All of these determinations must be informed by the understanding of risks of dissemination, the potential benefits of government use of the vulnerabilities, and the risks and benefits of all options in between. This document defines the policy and process for evaluating competing considerations to inform U.S. Government decisions.

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