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IBM Report: Number Of New Vulnerabilities Declined In 2009

Web application vulnerabilities top the list, and cross-site scripting (XSS) edges out SQL injection as top bug
First the good news: The number of new software vulnerabilities dropped last year. Now the bad news: Half of the vulnerabilities were in Web apps, nearly 70 percent of which had no patch by year's end, according to the newly released IBM 2009 X-Force Trend and Risk Report.

The total number of newly discovered vulnerabilities dropped 11 percent in 2009, with 6,601 new bugs, according to the report. Document reader/editor and multimedia applications saw more than a 50 percent increase in vulnerabilities last year, and the old nemesis cross-site scripting (XSS) beat out SQL injection as the top, but in Web apps.

Tom Cross, manager of IBM X-Force Research, says software vendors are generally improving their response to security bugs. Even so, the rise in attacks exploiting document reader flaws raises a red flag, he says. "While vendors appear to respond more effectively with patches for document reader and editor vulnerabilities, it is apparent based on the level of exploitation that is still occurring that computer users may not be vigilant at installing the patches that are available," Cross said.

While SQL injection attacks are still wildly popular, the number of SQL injection flaws is improving. The likelihood of a SQL injection flaw being found in apps was 18 percent last year, down from 33 percent in 2007, according to the IBM report. XSS was likely to be found in apps 83 percent of the time in 2007, and 64 percent last year, putting XSS atop SQL injection as the most common flaw.

Meanwhile, the number of malicious URLs jumped 345 percent last year over 2008, mainly due to attackers injecting these nefarious links into legitimate Websites. Cross points out that it's not just the "red light district" or other seedy Websites that host these links anymore.

And phishing is still alive and well, with financial services firms the main target with 61 percent of phishing attacks posing as financial firms and 20 percent as government agencies, the IBM report says.

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