Category Archives: Vulnerability Database

Martian Vulnerability Chronicles

Well, there should have been an optimistic post about my vulnerability analysis & classification pet-project. Something like “blah-blah-blah the situation is pretty bad, tons of vulnerabilities and it’s not clear which of them can be used by attackers. BUT there is a way how to make it better using trivial automation“. And so on. It seems that it won’t be any time soon. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I’ve spent several weekends on making some code that takes vulnerability description and other related formalized data to “separate the wheat from the chaff”. And what I get doesn’t look like some universal solution at all.

Pretty frustrating, but still an interesting experience and great protection from being charmed by trendy and shiny “predictive prioritization”.

Martian Vulnerability Chronicles

Literally, when you start analyzing this vulnerability-related stuff every your assumption becomes wrong:

  • that vulnerability description is good enough to get an idea how the vulnerability can be exploited (let’s discuss it in this post);
  • that CVSS characterizes the vulnerability somehow;
  • that the links to related objects (read: exploits) can be actually used for prioritization.

Actually, there is no reliable data that can be analyzed, trash is everywhere and everybody lies 😉

Let’s start from the vulnerability description. Great example is the last week critical Linux kernel vulnerability CVE-2019-8912.

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Vulnerability Life Cycle and Vulnerability Disclosures

Vulnerability Life Cycle diagram shows possible states of the vulnerability. In a previous post I suggested to treat vulnerabilities as bugs. Every known vulnerability, as same as every bug, was implemented by some software developer at some moment of time and was fixed at some moment of time later. What happens between this two events?

Vulnerability life-cycle

Right after the vulnerability was implemented in the code by some developer (creation) nobody knows about it. Well, of course, if it was done unintentionally. By the way, making backdoors look like an ordinary vulnerabilities it’s a smart way to do such things. 😉 But let’s say it WAS done unintentionally.

Time passed and some researcher found (discovery) this vulnerability and described it somehow. What’s next? It depends on who was that researcher.

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What is a vulnerability and what is not?

It looks like a pretty simple question. I used it to started my MIPT lecture. But actually the answer is not so obvious. There are lots of formal definitions of a vulnerability. For example in NIST Glossary there are 17 different definitions. The most popular one (used in 13 documents) is:

Vulnerability is a weakness in an information system, system security procedures, internal controls, or implementation that could be exploited or triggered by a threat source
NISTIR 7435 The Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) and Its Applicability to Federal Agency Systems

But I prefer this one, it’s from the glossary as well:

Vulnerability is a bug, flaw, weakness, or exposure of an application, system, device, or service that could lead to a failure of confidentiality, integrity, or availability.

I think the best way to talk about vulnerabilities is to treat them as bugs and errors. Because people deal with such entities more often in a form of software freezes and BSODs. 😉

You probably heard a joke, that a bug can be presented as a feature if it is well-documented and the software developers don’t want to fix it.

Bug, feature and vulnerability

Vulnerability is also a specific bug that can lead to some security issues. Or at least it is declared.

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MIPT/PhysTech guest lecture: Vulnerabilities, Money and People

On December 1, I gave a lecture at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (informally known as PhysTech). This is a very famous and prestigious university in Russia. In Soviet times, it trained personnel for Research Institutes and Experimental Design Bureaus, in particular for the Soviet nuclear program.

MIPT open lecture about vulnerabilities

Nowadays MIPT closely cooperates with Russian and foreign companies, trains business people, software developers and great scientists. For example, the researchers who discovered Graphene and won Nobel Prize for this in 2010 were once MIPT graduates.

This is a very interesting place with a rich history. So it was a great honor for me to speak there.

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PHDays8: Digital Bet and thousands tons of verbal ore

It’s time to write about Positive Hack Days 8: Digital Bet conference, which was held May 15-16 at the Moscow World Trade Center. It was the main Russian Information Security event of the first half of 2018. More than 4 thousand people attended! More than 50 reports, master classes and round tables held in 7 parallel streams. And, of course, impressive CTF contest for security experts and hackers with an fully-functioning model of the city.

Hack Days 8: Digital Bet

I was very pleased that there was a separate section dedicated to Vulnerability Management. Something similar happened only at ISACA meetup last year. But here we had an event for several thousand people!

The session was held in Fast Track format: 20 minutes for the presentation and questions. I was the first to speak. My report was called “Vulnerability Databases: sifting thousands tons of verbal ore”. Here is the video:

And here’s a link to the version with only Russian sound track.

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Vulnerability Databases: Classification and Registry

What publicly available Vulnerability Databases do we have? Well, I can only say that there are a lot of them and they are pretty different. Here I make an attempt to classify them.

It’s quite an ungrateful task. No matter how hard you try, the final result will be rather inaccurate and incomplete. I am sure someone will be complaining. But this is how I see it. 😉 If you want to add or change something feel free to make a comment bellow or email me@avleonov.com.

The main classifier, which I came up with:

  • There are individual vulnerability databases in which one identifier means one vulnerability. They try to cover all existing vulnerabilities.
  • And others are security bulletins. They cover vulnerabilities in a particular product or products. And they usually based on on patches. One patch may cover multiple vulnerabilities.

I made this diagram with some Vulnerability Databases. Note that I wanted to stay focused, so there are no exploit DBs, CERTs, lists of vulnerabilities detected by some researchers (CISCO Talos, PT Research, etc.), Media and Bug Bounty sites.

Vulnerability Databases classification

For these databases the descriptions of vulnerabilities are publicly available on the site (in html interface or downloadable data feed), or exist in a form of paid Vulnerability Intelligence service (for example, Flexera).

On one side there are databases of individual vulnerabilities, the most important is National Vulnerability Database. There are also Chinese, Japanese bases that can be derived from NVD or not.

On the other side we have security bulletins, for example RedHat Security Advisories.

And in the middle we have a Vulnerability Databases, for which it is not critical whether they have duplicated vulnerability IDs or not.

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CISO Forum and the problems of Vulnerability Databases

Last Tuesday, April 24,  I was at “CISO FORUM 2020: glance to the future“. I presented there my report “Vulnerability Databases: sifting thousands tons of verbal ore”. In this post, I’ll briefly talk about this report and about the event itself.

CISO Forum 2020

My speech was the last in the program. At the same time, in a parallel stream, there was another interesting presentation by the most famous Russian information security blogger. Thus, there was a real danger of speaking in an empty room. 🙂 But everything went well. There were about 30 spectators and we had an active QA session afterwards.

As I wrote earlier, I started preparing my CyberCentral presentation several months before the event. I did not want to tell the same story again at CISO Forum and PHDays. So I prepared 2 different presentations. At CyberCentral, I was talking about Vulnerability Scanners. And at CISO Forum I was talking mainly about Vulnerable Databases. Of course, I reused some materials, but the accents were different.

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