Keeping up with the fast-paced world of cyberattacks requires diligent attention to a broad range of security measures. For example, a robust set of procedural measures would likely include such items as training system users to practice good security “hygiene” (e.g., regularly changing passwords) and to detect and defeat common “phishing” attacks. Then, there are the technical measures to strengthen overall system protections through redundancy and diversity. These might include configuration “hopping” that shifts a vulnerable system to an alternative protected one or data consistency checking using voting among parallel diverse components.
Vulnerabilities are weaknesses in your IT infrastructure that give attackers an upper hand. As a centralized repository for vulnerability information, using CVE to improve security defenses allows organizations to quickly learn about these threats and optimize their security controls accordingly. The CVE process also works hand in hand with the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS), which helps you prioritize vulnerabilities based on their risk level. The CVE identifier format is internationally standardized and consists of the following elements: A unique formal name that enables you to recognize an issue establishes a common language, and simplifies communication between cybersecurity researchers and vendors. A description that provides context on the flaw, such as whether it’s exploitable or not. The year the identifier was published, making it easier to reference and cross-link information across repositories. A short list of organizations, CVE Numbering Authorities, are authorized to assign CVE IDs and publish records. These organizations range from software vendors to bug bounty service providers to research institutions and are all part of the CVE community. There’s growing agreement that sharing vulnerability information can reduce attack vectors and help thwart malicious actors. This is reflected in the fact that the CVE Board and CVE Numbering Authorities include key infosec organizations. The MITRE Corporation, a not-for-profit, is the primary CVE editor and assignor and manages the entire program.
Vulnerability prioritization is a crucial step in the vulnerability management process. It involves identifying and ranking vulnerabilities based on their impact, ease of exploitability, and other contextual factors. This allows security teams to focus on fixing the most pressing issues first, thereby improving the security posture of their organizations and protecting them against cyberattacks. A vulnerability is any gap in a company’s security controls that hackers can exploit to launch cyberattacks. These attacks can be data breaches, system disruptions, compliance violations, reputational damage, or other costly consequences. The CVE is an open-source database that helps software developers and cybersecurity professionals recognize, track, and share information on vulnerabilities. A CVE record typically includes:
- A unique identifier.
- The name of the vulnerability.
- A short description of its risks and impacts.
However, it doesn’t include technical data, CVSS-based scores, fixed information, or other details for security teams to run a comprehensive vulnerability management program. This information is provided in other databases, including the NIST National Vulnerability Database and various lists maintained by vendors and other organizations. The database also enables organizations to find more detailed information about the vulnerabilities they discover and prioritize them accordingly.
Keeping an updated list of vulnerabilities can help you mitigate them more quickly. It also provides a baseline against which you can measure the effectiveness of your cybersecurity measures. However, vulnerability data is only valuable if you are aware of it. CVE and other vulnerability databases are essential in a strong cybersecurity posture. Cybercriminals can exploit Vulnerabilities in your cybersecurity defenses to launch attacks against your infrastructure. Those cyberattacks could result in a data breach and the theft or destruction of sensitive information. In the context of CVE, a vulnerability is any flaw in your system that attackers can use to gain access to sensitive data.
Conversely, exposure is a weakness in your security controls that cybercriminals can use to conceal their activities and gather information about your network or systems. The CVE database contains only publicly disclosed vulnerabilities. It also contains the details about them, such as how to exploit them. This makes some cybersecurity experts believe that publicizing these vulnerabilities will encourage hackers to look for them and make finding and exploiting them easier. However, the CVE program’s proponents argue that this is outweighed by the benefits of more people knowing about these vulnerabilities and accelerating their prevention.
Vulnerabilities are identified with CVE identifiers and classified based on risk to share and compare information across different systems. This unifies communication between security professionals and security advisories, vulnerability databases, and bug trackers. It also allows organizations to take action to fix these vulnerabilities before cybercriminals exploit them. When a vulnerability is discovered, it must be reported to a CVE Numbering Authority (CNA), which verifies and publishes the vulnerability as a CVE entry. CNAs are typically prominent software vendors who publish their own CVE records. Despite some concerns that publicly listing these vulnerabilities makes it easier for hackers to find and exploit them, there is broad consensus in the infosec industry that the benefits outweigh the risks. This is especially true given the speed at which hackers can develop malware and other tools to exploit them. Many CVE entries represent vulnerabilities in unpatched software already known to hackers. However, it is essential to note that there are other types of vulnerability exposures introducing risks, such as misconfiguration issues and unauthorized access, that CVE cannot address.