Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Analytics

5/30/2007
03:45 AM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Bug Disclosures Decline

The rate of vulnerabilities disclosed publicly has dropped drastically so far this year, but don't exhale yet

The bad news: The number of reported security vulnerabilities out in cyberspace is still growing. The good news: That growth has slowed significantly over last year.

Researchers say the number of bugs reported so far this year has increased by about 5 percent, versus the 40- to 60-percent spike seen in 2006.

Mitre, which officially tracks publicly reported bugs under the Common Vulnerability and Exposures (CVE) program, has seen only a 5 percent increase through April, with 2,245 vulnerabilities reported, versus the 60 percent jump last year at the same time, with 2,143. IBM-ISS's X-Force team, meanwhile, reported around 2,419 bugs last year through mid-May and 2,553 this year. It reported an overall 39.5 percent jump for all of 2006 over 2005.

So is the number of software bugs really shrinking, or are we merely waiting for the other shoe to drop?

The numbers will still break last year's record, predicts Gunter Ollmann, director of security strategy for IBM-ISS. "But [it] will still be [relatively] modest this year," he says. "I think we're looking at 8,500 publicly disclosed vulnerabilities" overall for 2007, up from 7,247 last year.

A combination of factors have contributed to the radical slowdown in bug reports, experts say. More researchers getting "real" jobs with vendors, some of which just patch and never actually disclose the offending bugs. There has been a slowdown in the reporting of simple bugs in less-popular software. And the black market is paying big bucks for zero-day exploits.

High-profile bugs represent about only 20 percent of Mitre's total vulnerabilities reported, says Steve Christey, principal information security engineer for Mitre, who also noted that the 40- to 60-percent increase last year might have been due in part to improvements in the CVE analysis process.

Other forces could also be at work. "In the past couple of years, it seems like there's been a huge increase of independent researchers who use basic techniques to find simple vulnerabilities in software that's not very popular," Christey says. "Maybe we've reached a critical mass in which there are finally enough independent researchers to provide basic evaluations of most software that's available on the Internet."

And there's typically a sharp increase in bug disclosures when researchers first start working on a new class of products, which typically are loaded with easy-to-find bugs, Christey says. "We haven't seen a new product class dominate the landscape since file format vulnerabilities in image or document processing products," he says. "There hasn't been a real 'fad' since file-format vulnerabilities, but ActiveX controls show some potential."

The numbers could jump again once researchers start hammering away at software that hasn't yet been widely deployed, Christey says.

Ollmann says Microsoft’s Windows Vista and Office 2007 may have slowed things a bit, too, with their new security features that prevent some typical bugs from actually becoming exploitable vulnerabilities. A newbie hacker can't just point a fuzzer at this new generation of software, he says. And Vista-compatible apps have not yet arrived in full force, either, which may also be contributing to the slowdown in bug finds. (See Bugs With No Bite.)

The research market is changing, too, Ollmann says. "Three to five years ago, a lot of upcoming new researchers' goals were to find and publicly disclose bugs and get credit for them. They found there was money in this by offering their services commercially." Some vendors are tapping these third-party researchers for bug finds, so disclosures aren't made until after the vendor has patched its product -- or are never disclosed at all, he adds.

Other vulnerabilities currently take special expertise to uncover. "Some relatively new vulnerability types remain the exclusive domain of the expert researcher, such as integer overflows and subtle buffer overflow variants," Christey says. "When knowledge and techniques for these new types becomes more accessible to the general researcher, we might see another increase."

And once the relatively slower summer months melt away into the fall, look out: That's the time of year when bug disclosures typically increase. "There's a lot of pickup following summer vacations, and holidays... especially the ones irresponsibly disclosed," Ollmann says. "The major vendors' [disclosures] are spread throughout the year."

Still, the early slowdown so far this year did catch researchers by surprise. "I'm a little surprised, but after the growth rates of the recent past, there's always hope that the bleeding will slow down," Christey says. "If there's one thing I've learned in this business, it's to expect the unexpected. Numbers ebb and flow all the time."

— Kelly Jackson Higgins, Senior Editor, Dark Reading

  • IBM Internet Security Systems
  • Mitre Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio
     

    Recommended Reading:

    Comment  | 
    Print  | 
    More Insights
  • Comments
    Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
    COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
    Dark Reading Staff 6/4/2020
    Data Loss Spikes Under COVID-19 Lockdowns
    Seth Rosenblatt, Contributing Writer,  5/28/2020
    Abandoned Apps May Pose Security Risk to Mobile Devices
    Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  5/29/2020
    Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
    White Papers
    Video
    Cartoon Contest
    Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
    Latest Comment: What? IT said I needed virus protection!
    Current Issue
    How Cybersecurity Incident Response Programs Work (and Why Some Don't)
    This Tech Digest takes a look at the vital role cybersecurity incident response (IR) plays in managing cyber-risk within organizations. Download the Tech Digest today to find out how well-planned IR programs can detect intrusions, contain breaches, and help an organization restore normal operations.
    Flash Poll
    Twitter Feed
    Dark Reading - Bug Report
    Bug Report
    Enterprise Vulnerabilities
    From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
    CVE-2020-13817
    PUBLISHED: 2020-06-04
    ntpd in ntp before 4.2.8p14 and 4.3.x before 4.3.100 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (daemon exit or system time change) by predicting transmit timestamps for use in spoofed packets. The victim must be relying on unauthenticated IPv4 time sources. There must be an off-path attac...
    CVE-2020-13818
    PUBLISHED: 2020-06-04
    In Zoho ManageEngine OpManager before 125144, when <cachestart> is used, directory traversal validation can be bypassed.
    CVE-2020-6640
    PUBLISHED: 2020-06-04
    An improper neutralization of input vulnerability in the Admin Profile of FortiAnalyzer may allow a remote authenticated attacker to perform a stored cross site scripting attack (XSS) via the Description Area.
    CVE-2020-9292
    PUBLISHED: 2020-06-04
    An unquoted service path vulnerability in the FortiSIEM Windows Agent component may allow an attacker to gain elevated privileges via the AoWinAgt executable service path.
    CVE-2019-16150
    PUBLISHED: 2020-06-04
    Use of a hard-coded cryptographic key to encrypt security sensitive data in local storage and configuration in FortiClient for Windows prior to 6.4.0 may allow an attacker with access to the local storage or the configuration backup file to decrypt the sensitive data via knowledge of the hard-coded ...