Disclosed security vulnerabilities expected to decline

Web application programs are the most reported vulnerabilities, says IBM

The number of disclosed security vulnerabilities is projected to decline or stay on par with last year, according to IBM’s X-Force 2013 Mid-Year Trend and Risk Report.

In the first half of 2013, about 4100 vulnerabilities were reported, with IBM projecting that number will double to 8200 by the end of this year.

Disclosed security vulnerabilities have been fluctuating every year since 2006, but this year is forecast be on par with last year. In 2010, it peaked at its highest (close to 9000) since 1996.

Web application programs, such as content management systems (CMS), are the most reported vulnerabilities, according to IBM.

Cross-site scripting disclosed vulnerabilities are forecast to drop from almost 1900 in 2012 to about 1500 by the end of 2013, SQL injections will drop from about 600 to about 400, and file inclusion vulnerabilities are forecast to be on par with last year at around 200. Other Web application vulnerabilities are also forecast to decline from a little more than 800 to about 600.

In the first half of 2013, 78 per cent of vulnerabilities relating to CMS' were patched, an increase of 7 per cent since 2012. However, almost half of the CMS plug-in vulnerabilities (46 per cent) were unpatched in the first half of this year.

Reported mobile vulnerabilities are forecast to decline from about 370 in 2012 to 340 in 2013. Disclosed mobile vulnerabilities jumped significantly in 2012 from a little under 150 in 2011.

Glen Gooding, director, Institute for Advanced Security at IBM, said even though most disclosed security vulnerabilities are projected to decline, traditionally the numbers are still high, especially when it comes to Web applications.

"I’d love to say that organisations are better prepared and providing better security controls around protecting themselves, but I think we will see that is not the case," he said.

"We have got to get back to basics. Organisations are still not doing the simple things right. We are not patching our operating systems, applications, office suites, browsers, etc.

"There is a lot of focus on our infrastructure, the way that organisation bring e-commerce sites or public-facing sites to the Internet, but they still have old versions of application servers. Some of those front end sites still have old versions of Internet Explorer sitting on them. Why would you ever want to put a browser on an Internet-facing server?"

IBM’s report found 28 per cent of reported vulnerabilities could lead to consequences such as an attacker gaining access to applications and systems. This was the highest kind of consequence, followed by cross-site scripting at 18 per cent, denial of service at 13 per cent, bypass security at 9 per cent, gain privileges at 7 per cent and data manipulation at 5 per cent. File manipulation, other and unknown attacks were under 5 per cent.

The report found typical networks could, on average, expect to have between 10 to 30 vulnerabilities per IP address in their environment. "Some will have none and some will have hundreds, with the numbers changing daily.

"Having a vulnerability management system which is able to provide clear reporting on which specific vulnerabilities are scheduled to be patched by an endpoint system, and which ones are not, helps ensure that remediation efforts are directed most efficiently," IBM said in its report.

“Enabling vulnerability management with additional contextual data will require it to be seamlessly integrated with a security intelligence system with both a real time and an historic view of network activity, including what the current threat environment looks like and what the status is of current security controls."

Gooding also emphasised the importance of doing regular vulnerability scans on systems to reduce the risk of breaches in future. This includes looking at if there’s a mature metric reporting environment within the organisation, he said.