Understanding CVE – An Introduction to Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures

Cybercriminals are always looking for new weaknesses to take advantage of. Vulnerabilities that aren’t widely known can often remain invisible, but the CVE program makes them visible through standardized identifiers.

Launched in 1999, CVE provides a common language for information about security threats so that different tools and databases can share data seamlessly. It helps organizations prioritize and remediate the most serious vulnerabilities.

What is CVE?

The CVE system is an indispensable tool for cybersecurity professionals. Providing a standardized list of known vulnerabilities helps organizations identify and address threats effectively.

Threat actors can use software weaknesses known as vulnerabilities to obtain unwanted access to systems and networks. In the most severe cases, attackers can take control of systems and steal sensitive data.

CVE provides a standard way to identify these vulnerabilities by giving each one a unique identification number. The number also includes a description of the vulnerability and references to related security advisories from vendors.

Anyone can submit a CVE report, including researchers, white hat hackers, and vendors. These reports are then reviewed and merged into a single CVE entry by a CVE Numbering Authorities (CNAs) group. Each CVE entry has a standard format: CVE-YYYY-NNNN, where CVE is a prefix, YYYY is the year it was added to the list, and NNNN is a four-digit numeric ID.

What is an Exposure?

Typically, vulnerabilities are found by cybersecurity researchers or security tool providers. They submit them to the CVE list and are investigated using the Security Content Automation Protocol (SCAP). Once they’re accepted, each vulnerability is assigned a unique identifier.

The standardized name allows security administrators to quickly access technical information about a vulnerability across multiple CVE-compatible information sources. It can reduce the time it takes to respond to cyber-attacks.

Each CVE entry contains a short description of the vulnerability and references to additional information. It can include vendor advisories and proof of concepts by third parties.

Some people believe that exposing these weaknesses publicly encourages hackers, but others argue that if everyone knows about a weakness, they’ll be quicker to prevent its exploitation. Regardless, there’s growing agreement in the cybersecurity community that CVE makes preventing cyber attacks much easier. That’s why many security tools now include CVE compatibility. The vast majority of companies that handle sensitive information – from suppliers of cold calling systems to those processing medical data – use CVE.

What is a Vulnerability?

Attackers use vulnerabilities to their advantage in cyberattacks to gain unauthorized access to computer systems or carry out unlawful acts on them. Vulnerabilities allow attackers to steal or delete data, run code, access system memory, and install various malware.

A vulnerability in a piece of computer software allows hackers to access things they shouldn’t be able to gain access to, such as credit card numbers. Vulnerabilities are the most common attack vector in almost all software, hardware, and services.

A CVE record contains a description of a security issue that includes the details of the flaw, references, and a CVSS score. Typically, the record includes the affected software version (e.g., 1.3.4 through 2.5.4). The CVE board comprises cybersecurity organizations, research institutions, vendors, end-users, and industry experts. The board is responsible for setting the goals and standards of the program. The board meets regularly to discuss the needs of the CVE program and issues relevant to it.

What is a CVE ID?

A CVE ID is a unique identifier assigned to publicly known cybersecurity vulnerabilities. It allows organizations to identify these weaknesses in their systems and networks more reliably.

CVE entries include:

  • A standard identifier number.
  • A status indicator.
  • A brief description of the vulnerability.
  • References to related advisories and reports.

They don’t include detailed technical data or information about how to fix or mitigate the flaws. Instead, they are listed in other, more comprehensive databases like the National Vulnerability Database and CERT/CC’s Vulnerability Notes Database.

For a vulnerability to be logged in the CVE database, it must have been discovered by researchers or reported to the CVE program by affected vendors or other community members. It must also be confirmed as a valid vulnerability by the CVE Assignment Team or by one of the authorized organizations, CNAs. A CVE entry also includes a four-digit year, which indicates when the vulnerability was first included in the dictionary and made public.


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