Assessing vulnerability exploitability risk using software properties

  • Younis A
  • Malaiya Y
  • Ray I
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Attacks on computer systems are now attracting increased attention. While the current trends in software vulnerability discovery indicate that the number of newly discovered vulnerabilities continues to be significant, the time between the public disclosure of vulnerabilities and the release of an automated exploit is shrinking. Thus, assessing the vulnerability exploitability risk is critical because this allows decision-makers to prioritize among vulnerabilities, allocate resources to patch and protect systems from these vulnerabilities, and choose between alternatives. Common vulnerability scoring system (CVSS) metrics have become the de facto standard for assessing the severity of vulnerabilities. However, the CVSS exploitability measures assign subjective values based on the views of experts. Two of the factors in CVSS, Access Vector and Authentication, are the same for almost all vulnerabilities. CVSS does not specify how the third factor, Access Complexity, is measured, and hence it is unknown whether it considers software properties as a factor. In this work, we introduce a novel measure, Structural Severity, which is based on software properties, namely attack entry points, vulnerability location, the presence of the dangerous system calls, and reachability analysis. These properties represent metrics that can be objectively derived from attack surface analysis, vulnerability analysis, and exploitation analysis. To illustrate the proposed approach, 25 reported vulnerabilities of Apache HTTP server and 86 reported vulnerabilities of Linux Kernel have been examined at the source code level. The results show that the proposed approach, which uses more detailed information, can objectively measure the risk of vulnerability exploitability and results can be different from the CVSS base scores.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Attack surface
  • CVSS metrics
  • Risk assessment
  • Software security metrics
  • Software vulnerability
  • Source code analysis

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  • Awad Younis

  • Yashwant K. Malaiya

  • Indrajit Ray

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