Security Navigator Research: Some Vulnerabilities Date Back to the Last Millennium

Vulnerability analysis results in Orange Cyberdefenses' Security Navigator show that some vulnerabilities first discovered in 1999 are still found in networks today. This is concerning.

Age of VOC findings

Our Vulnerability Scans are performed on a recurring basis, which provides us the opportunity to examine the difference between when a scan was performed on an Asset, and when a given finding on that Asset was reported. We can call that the finding 'Age'. If the findings first reported are not addressed, they will occur in more scans over time with increasing Age, and so we can track how the Age of reported findings changes over time.

As the chart below clearly illustrates, the majority of real findings in our dataset, across all Severity levels, are between 75 and 225 days old. There is a second 'peak' at around 300 days, which we suspect has more to do with the age of the data in the dataset and can therefore be ignored. Finally, there is a fascinating 'bump' at around 1,000 days, which we believe represents the 'long tail' of findings in the dataset that will simply never be addressed.

75% of the findings in the 1000-days 'bump' are Medium Severity, but 16% are classified as High or Critical Severity.

The Average Age of findings in our dataset is impacted as much by changes in our Customer and Assets set as any external factor, as can be seen in the high degree of variation. Yet, there is a clear increase in the Average Age of findings of 241% from 63 to 215 days over the 24 months since we've been onboarding clients onto this platform.

Roughly grouping confirmed findings from our Vulnerability Scan data by 'Age Group' reveals the following:

  • Only 20% of all findings are addressed in under 30 days
  • 80% all findings take 30 days or more to patch
  • 57% of all findings take 90 days or more to patch.
  • 215 days Average

Average/max age of findings by severity

The chart below suggests that even Critical Vulnerabilities are taking around 6 months on average to resolve, but that is encouragingly at least 36% faster than the time for low-severity issues.

Taking a closer look at the readings of average vs. maximum time for different ratings of criticality we end up with the chart below.

While our conclusion of critical issues being resolved faster stands for the average mitigation time, the maximum time is consistently high regardless of criticality.

We will have to watch this metric more as the dataset grows in the future.

Industry Comparison

The maximum age of findings in the view below serves as much as an indication of how long customers from that Industry have been present in our dataset as anything else, while the average age is a better proxy for how well customers are doing at addressing the issues we report. Industries with high maximums and low averages would therefore be doing the best, high maximum and high average… the 'worst.' Industries with very low maximum ages have probably not been in the dataset for very long and should, therefore, perhaps not be included in comparisons on this metric.

However these Industries are compared, the finding Age is a concerning metric.

How old are those vulnerabilities really?

So far we have only looked at the relative time, from when we first found a vulnerability in an asset up until now (if still present). However, that does not give us any information on how old those vulnerabilities really are. Taking a closer look at the found CVEs we can analyze their publishing dates. The results are somewhat baffling, but seem to fit the picture that emerges: for one reason or another, some vulnerabilities are just not fixed, ever. They become part of the security debt that businesses accumulate.

  • 0.5% of CVEs reported are 20 years old or more
  • 13% of CVEs reports are 10 years old or more
  • 47% of CVEs are 5 years old or more

Conclusion

More than 22 vulnerabilities with assigned CVEs are published each day. With an average CVSS score above 7 (High Severity), each of these disclosed vulnerabilities is a significant datapoint that affects our risk equations and our real exposure to threats.

Vulnerability Scanning and Penetration Testing are mechanisms we use to make sense of the vulnerabilities that may impact our security posture, understand their potential impact, prioritize and take appropriate action. These two assessment exercises are different in approach, but use similar language and serve a similar purpose.

This year we are including an analysis of datasets from both services in the Navigator. This is the first time we are attempting this, and our data is still far from perfect.

What we can clearly see is the we're struggling to manage the vulnerabilities we know about. On average, it is taking our customers 215 days to patch a vulnerability we report to them. This is a little lower for Critical Vulnerabilities – it appears these are patched 36% faster than 'Low' severity issues. But the picture is still grim: 80% of all Findings take 30 days or more to patch, 57% take 90 days or more.

Our pentesting teams are still discovering vulnerabilities that were first identified in 2010, and our scanning teams encounter issues that date back to 1999! Indeed 47% of CVEs are 5 years old or more. 13% are as old as 10 years or more. This is a concerning result.

This is just an excerpt of the analysis. More details, like the criticality of vulnerabilities and the changes in Pentesting and VOC scanning results over time (as well as a ton of other interesting research topics), can be found in the Security Navigator. It's free of charge, so have a look. It's worth it!

Note: This informative piece has been expertly crafted and generously shared by Charl van der Walt, Head of Security Research at Orange Cyberdefense.

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