Security Vulnerabilities

What Is a Security Vulnerability?

A security vulnerability is a weakness, flaw, or error within an IT resource that leaves it open to attack. These vulnerabilities come in various forms, but their typical result is that they leave avenues available so attackers can exploit them to gain access to systems or networks. Threat actors can use this access to compromise assets further, making it potentially possible to steal valuable private data.

It is almost impossible to avoid at least some vulnerabilities but recognizing them before they are exploited and fixing the problems quickly is a crucial part of maintaining strong cybersecurity.

Causes of Security Vulnerabilities

There is a wide range of causes for security vulnerability. For example, there could be a mistake in the software codebase, an application may not be validated, or access controls could be misconfigured.

According to the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP), broken access control was the most common vulnerability in Web applications, followed by cryptographic failures, with injection holes including cross-site scripting in third place. A report from Synopsys in 2021 revealed that 84 percent of codebases contained at least one open-source vulnerability.

That vulnerabilities exist is not an issue, but the failure to quickly recognize and mitigate them exposes users and networks to exploitation, damages, and theft. 

4 Types of Security Vulnerabilities

1. Malicious Code

Malware or other routines injected into the codebase of systems can be exploited to gain additional access to software and network resources.

2. Misconfiguration

If identity controls are not correctly set up, public access could be gained—leading to a data breach. For example, when default credentials are left in place.

3. Coding Flaws

Mistakes or oversights can lead to an input validation failure, allowing inputs that enable unauthorized access, leading to an exploit.

4. Missing Encryption

If data isn't encrypted adequately in transit or where it resides, it could become vulnerable to attack and theft.

There are many other vulnerabilities. For example, an insider in an organization could pose a threat; according to Forrester, one-in-three security breaches in 2021 were in this category. Authentication could also be inadequate, such as the non-implementation of Zero Trust. Lack of monitoring and logging can leave an organization open to not finding out about a breach in enough time to prevent damage. In the cloud era, there are also vulnerabilities from shared tenancy of a cloud service, where a breach of one tenant can propagate to another. 

Vulnerabilities are constantly growing and changing; a proactive approach to keeping ahead of the threats is essential.

Security Vulnerability vs. Exploit

A security vulnerability is a potential for attack. In contrast, an exploit is how such an attack is executed—usually a piece of code or command sequence designed to take advantage of the vulnerability. There are even open-source kits for hackers to make exploits themselves.

A vulnerability is a problem, but an organization avoids a potential cyberattack if it is fixed before it is exploited. Once the vulnerability is exploited, problems begin.

FAQ

What does CVE stand for?

CVE stands for Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures. This system refers to information security vulnerabilities maintained by The MITRE Corporation's National Cybersecurity Federally Funded Research and Development Center (NCFFRD). CVE enables a standard categorization and identification dictionary to help organizations improve their cybersecurity. It includes a Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) between 0.0 and 10.0 to assess a vulnerability's impact, with a higher number implying a higher degree of severity.

What is CWE?

CWE stands for Common Weakness Enumeration. It is related to CVE and is also maintained by the MITRE Corporation. CWE is a categorization system for hardware and software weaknesses and vulnerabilities. It aims to create automated systems such as Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) tools that can identify, fix, and prevent the vulnerabilities CWE enumerates. The list CWE maintains contains more than 600 categories, with each entry typically well-documented, including descriptions, examples, and related CVEs or similar vulnerabilities.

Our Managed XDR solution CylanceGUARD® is well equipped to mitigate the risks posed by vulnerabilities, and defends customers against exploitation of their systems. Our prevention-first and AI-driven approach to cybersecurity puts prevention first, neutralizing malware and increasing your cyber resilience.