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Application Security

5/17/2019
03:30 PM
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Q1 2019 Smashes Record For Most Reported Vulnerabilities in a Quarter

Once again, a high-proportion of the reported flaws have no current fix, according to Risk Based Security.

More security vulnerabilities were publicly disclosed in the first quarter of this year than in any previous three-month period.

Troublingly, nearly four-in-10 (38.2%) of them currently have no known fixes, according to Risk Based Security, which recently analyzed vulnerability data for the firts quarter of 2019 collected from its own proprietary search engine and from various security vulnerability-reporting sites.

The analysis showed a total of 5,501 vulnerabilities were disclosed via coordinated and uncoordinated disclosures during the first three months of this year. Nearly 38% of the vulnerabilities currently have publicly available exploits.

The total number vulnerabilities in Q1 2019 was about 1% higher than the 5,375 recorded in the same period last year, and is the highest ever in a quarter since Risk Based Security began conducting these studies. Web-related vulnerabilities as usual accounted for most (56.8%) of the reported vulnerabilities last quarter—an almost 10% increase from Q1 of 2018.

"Vulnerability disclosures continue to rise, and will continue to rise every year," says Brian Martin, vice president of vulnerability intelligence at Risk Based Security. The trend highlights the need for organizations to have vulnerability mitigation plans and processes that go beyond just patching, he says.

"With some days seeing hundreds of disclosures, IT simply cannot patch all the vulnerabilities right away," Martin notes. They need to triage that process and prioritize the high-impact vulnerabilities using more than just the risk rating provided by vendors and others. "They need to make more informed decisions based on their own deployment, availability of exploits, and more," he notes.

Product Integrity

Sixty-three percent of the security vulnerabilities disclosed last quarter affected product integrity. Bugs that fall into this category include those that enable data manipulation, SQL injection, and code execution. Over half could be attacked remotely and one-third were user-assisted or context-dependent, meaning the ability for attackers to exploit these flaws depended on user actions and specific context.

Risk Based Security's analysis showed that some 14% of the vulnerabilities that were disclosed last quarter were critical, with severity ratings of 9 or higher on the CVSS scale. Typically, these are bugs that are remotely exploitable, provide unauthenticated access, or give attackers a way to gain root access to a critical system or data. Thirteen percent of the reported flaws last quarter could only be exploited if attackers had local access to a system or a device.

Somewhat ominously for organizations, a higher-than-usual proportion of the vulnerabilities that were disclosed last quarter (38.2%) have no current fixes. In fact, only 60.8%--or 3,275—of the disclosed vulnerabilities have either an updated software version or a patch available. The number of vulnerabilities with available fixes last quarter was some 13.5% lower compared to Q1, 2018.

Martin says many of the vulnerabilities for which there are no fixes were disclosed by security researchers through channels outside the vendor's purview. 

"If they release via an exploit site, their own blog, or anywhere else that a vendor doesn't know to look, they wouldn't be aware of it and know to start working on a fix," Martin says.

In addition to such uncoordinated disclosures, researchers sometimes release vulnerability details publicly if they perceive the vendor as being too slow to issue a fix for it.

Also, there are some security vulnerabilities reported in projects that are abandoned and will not be updated and therefore no fix is available, Martin says.

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Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio

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