Before CVE was created, getting information about vulnerabilities and cyber risks was difficult. Vulnerabilities were spread across various databases with different attributes and identification systems.
With a standardized system, it’s much easier for cybersecurity professionals to work together.
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What is CVE?
With new vulnerabilities getting discovered daily, having a standard identification system is essential for managing them. The CVE project offers just that. Once a vulnerability is discovered, it is assigned a CVE identification number by a CVE Numbering Authority (CNA). This process involves various people, including vulnerability researchers, commercial security tool vendors, projects and bug bounty programs, national and industry CERTS, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).
Once the details about a CVE are documented, they are published so everyone can see them. These publications typically include a standard identifier number with a status indicator, a brief description, and references. However, the CVE does not provide information about a vulnerability’s specific impact or fixes as found in other databases. The CVE is more of a dictionary than a complete vulnerability database.
What are Vulnerabilities?
Vulnerabilities are weaknesses in software, hardware, or processes that attackers could exploit. This includes bugs in software, hardware errors, or even a flaw in how something has been configured or implemented.
Vulnerability details can include an attack vector (how the vulnerability might be accessed), the scope of the impact, the privileges required, and whether user interaction is needed. They also typically mention the vendor or developer responsible for the software or hardware and a version number that can help I.T. identify affected product releases.
Vulnerability details can be public or private; hackers often know about a vulnerability long before the vendor or developer becomes aware of it and issues a patch. However, growing agreement across the cybersecurity community is that vulnerabilities should be publicly disclosed to reduce their impact.
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What are Exposures?
An exposure is any weakness in computer software systems that allows nefarious actors to gain access. For example, software processing credit cards shouldn’t allow anyone to read the card numbers, but that could be done if that system had a vulnerability.
The CVE system provides a standard method for identifying vulnerabilities with a unique I.D. and helps organizations find more information about them. That information includes a brief vulnerability description, technical details, and an impact statement.
There is some debate about whether or not publicly identifying vulnerabilities makes it easier for hackers to exploit them. Still, most infosec professionals agree that the benefits of sharing this information far outweigh the risks. Even skilled hackers can’t use every single flaw in the world to attack a network, and it takes significantly more time for them to do so than for an organization to detect the problem, find a fix, and implement preventative measures.
How do Vulnerabilities and Exposures Affect Us?
Vulnerabilities are flaws that attackers can use to gain unauthorized access, take control of systems, and steal, delete, or change data. They are found in software and firmware and can be used to attack a computer system, run malicious code, access memory, or perform other actions that compromise cybersecurity.
Before CVE was established, different vulnerability databases and tools had their identification system and names for vulnerabilities. This meant it took longer for these tools to communicate and compare information. CVE solves this problem by providing a common identifier that allows all products and services to interact.
Once a vulnerability is discovered, it is reported to a CVE Numbering Authority (CNA). Software vendors, research institutions, organizations, bug bounty services, and other security tools can do this. CNAs then assign CVE IDs to the discovered vulnerabilities. This enables associations to look up vulnerabilities by seller, product, risk type, and date of vulnerability discovery.