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10/14/2015
12:00 PM
Rob Tate
Rob Tate
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'POODLE' One Year Later: Still Around? Not So Much

As high-severity vulnerabilities go, POODLE remediation rates and times have proven to be astonishingly better than expected.

It’s been a year since the original version of the POODLE vulnerability hit the news. Since then, there have been several new incarnations keeping this SSL/TLS issue alive in the nightmares of IT professionals and vendors everywhere.

The ones we have the most data on are the original (CVE-2014-3566) and the “POODLE TLS” (CVE-2014-8730 and others), which we internally nicknamed “Zombie POODLE.” Note that while CVE-2014-8730 should technically only be used for F5, in practice it was used to refer to many implementations of TLS 1.x.

True, people are still vulnerable to this issue, as raw lifetime stats for two vulnerabilities show:

Table 1: A DOG'S LIFE

Original POODLE POODLE TLS
Total Found 13610 1887
Currently Open 2983 553
Currently Closed 10593 1325
% Closed 78% 70%
Average Time-to-Fix 34d 16h 67d 7h

But, as regular readers of our annual stats report know, even for high-severity issues, these remediation rates and times are astonishingly good.

Fixed so fast
Here is the trend of remediation for POODLE, and for comparison CVE-2012-1823, another severe vulnerability, but one that did not have a big impact from a public perception perspective. When comparing remediation, I like to graph the remediation time distribution. The Y-axis here is number of distinct vulnerabilities closed with a time-to-fix in the range on the X-axis.

The CVEs above are both severe and well-known issues to application security professionals. That’s partly because both vulnerbailities were exploited frequently. But even very common, severe issues like XSS and SQLi do not get the quick response we saw with POODLE. The overall curve is generally true of severe issues: Most of the vulnerabilities that are closed are done so pretty quickly. But the average remediation time for the PHP bug is 106 days vs. POODLE’s 35.

In my opinion, there are four inter-related reasons why POODLE was addressed so quickly:

  1. Lots of applications affected 
  2. Lots of attention at executive/board level 
  3. Lots of media coverage 
  4. Lots of vendor attention (and patching)

What’s in a name?
Beyond the above list, it’s entirely possible that giving this vulnerability a name was the most important factor, more so than the fact that it actually affected large numbers of sites. Giving widespread vulnerabilities names has become a trend in the security industry and while some have proven to be overhyped, it’s at least gotten the security conversation into C-level and boardroom discussions.

Google Trends offers a graphical illustration of public interest over time, based on a world wide web search on the CVEs from January 2012 to November 2015.  

No two issues are exactly alike, nor are the circumstances around their coverage. However, I think it’s safe to say that coming on the heels of Shellshock and Heartbleed -- and  having a memorable name -- had a big impact on the short time-to-fix for P00DLE.

Rob Tate serves as the senior manager for WhiteHat Security's Threat Research Center. In this role, Rob researches emerging threats and how businesses can successfully protect themselves against vulnerabilities. Before focusing on research, Rob began at WhiteHat as an ... View Full Bio
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