How good are you at scoring security vulnerabilities, really? Boffins seek infosec pros to take rating skill survey

Real-world CVSS figures are a little variable, or so these folks reckon

A German academic is running a study into the effectiveness of vulnerability scores – and is hoping the research will shed more light on the occasionally controversial system.

By running a survey on whether infosec bods think the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) is a useful tool for assessing security flaws, Dr Zinaida Benenson of Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg's IT Security Infrastructure Lab in Germany hopes to further the infosec world's understanding of how reliable the system really is.

While the survey hopes to gain up to 300 respondents, Benenson was coy about precisely what she's hoping to prove or disprove, but she did drop The Register a hint about the current state of CVSS scoring.

In preliminary research, Benenson and her fellow researchers asked a handful of infosec bods to allocate CVSS scores to 10 sample vulnerabilities, as a way of testing how consistent their scoring was.

"I'm not naming the vulnerabilities, because some of them are now in the survey, but just to give you a feeling..." she said, sending us a partial table of scores from that exercise:

vuln 1: 4.7, 5.4, 6.1, 6.3, 7.3, 7.5
vuln 2: 3.0, 4.8, 5.0, 5.4, 6.5, 7.1, 7.6, 8.4
vuln 3: 4.7, 6.8, 7.2, 8.2, 9.0, 9.8
vuln 7: 3.1, 4.2, 4.8, 5.3, 6.5, 7.5, 8.3, 9.3
vuln 10: 0.0., 3.7, 5.3, 8.2, 8.8

"Some of the scores were of course the same for different experts, but on the whole, there wasn't much agreement," Benenson added. "And I'm not picking especially weird vulnerabilities, all 10 of them were rated like this."

The CVSS survey can be found here.

CVSS was invented in 2005 when Cisco, Microsoft, Qualys, Symantec and others joined forces to announce the scoring system we all know and, er, love. In the decade-and-a-half since then, CVSS has become the standard at-a-glance measure of a given vulnerability's severity, with the worst reaching 10.0 on the system's ten-point scoring scale.

Scores are commonly allocated to vulnerabilities along with a Common Vulnerabilities and Exposure (CVE) number, which has led to the undesirable practice of researchers "collecting" high-severity CVEs by using dubious methods.

A recent example of a 10.0-rated CVEs was a VMware vCenter vuln that allowed anyone at all to remotely create an admin-level account. Lower down the scale, but still significant, was a CVSS 7.8-graded flaw in ConnectWise's Automate product that allowed someone with user credentials to remotely run commands on an Automate instance.

Referring to the table of varied CVSS scores she showed us, Benenson said: "We are not saying that CVSS experts are not skilful. We are trying to find factors behind the fact that the scores are so different. Actually, the scores are supposed to be the same across different actors; this is the idea of CVSS." ®

Similar topics

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • Robotics and 5G to spur growth of SoC industry – report
    Big OEMs hogging production and COVID causing supply issues

    The system-on-chip (SoC) side of the semiconductor industry is poised for growth between now and 2026, when it's predicted to be worth $6.85 billion, according to an analyst's report. 

    Chances are good that there's an SoC-powered device within arm's reach of you: the tiny integrated circuits contain everything needed for a basic computer, leading to their proliferation in mobile, IoT and smart devices. 

    The report predicting the growth comes from advisory biz Technavio, which looked at a long list of companies in the SoC market. Vendors it analyzed include Apple, Broadcom, Intel, Nvidia, TSMC, Toshiba, and more. The company predicts that much of the growth between now and 2026 will stem primarily from robotics and 5G. 

    Continue reading
  • Deepfake attacks can easily trick live facial recognition systems online
    Plus: Next PyTorch release will support Apple GPUs so devs can train neural networks on their own laptops

    In brief Miscreants can easily steal someone else's identity by tricking live facial recognition software using deepfakes, according to a new report.

    Sensity AI, a startup focused on tackling identity fraud, carried out a series of pretend attacks. Engineers scanned the image of someone from an ID card, and mapped their likeness onto another person's face. Sensity then tested whether they could breach live facial recognition systems by tricking them into believing the pretend attacker is a real user.

    So-called "liveness tests" try to authenticate identities in real-time, relying on images or video streams from cameras like face recognition used to unlock mobile phones, for example. Nine out of ten vendors failed Sensity's live deepfake attacks.

    Continue reading
  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022