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Depending on the circumstances, finders may be subject to a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) regarding any vulnerabilities found. This is often the case when vulnerability testing is performed on behalf the vendor whether directly as an employee, or under contract as part of a consulting firm or as a freelance consultant. Finders should be aware of this possibility and consider the legal implications of any relevant NDAs before reporting a vulnerability to any third party.

That said, vendors are strongly encouraged to avoid requiring NDAs of reporters if at all possible. Many finders prefer to avoid the legal entanglements that NDAs entail and will be discouraged from reporting vulnerabilities when an NDA is involved.  This can leave vendors unaware of potential threats to their products and services and in turn, their users.

Additionally, in some environments, such as medical devices, healthcare, education, or financial information systems, there may be legal consequences to accessing real data (under HIPAA [2], FERPA [3], COPPA [4], and similar laws, industry standards such as PCI DSS [5], etc.), so we again reiterate the need to perform research only in controlled test environments, preferably with fake data.

For more information on the legal implications of vulnerability disclosure, we refer you to the EFF's Coders' Rights Project Vulnerability Reporting FAQ [6].


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