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ITL Bulletin for October 2005
From: InfoSec News <isn () c4i org>
Date: Wed, 26 Oct 2005 01:24:34 -0500 (CDT)

Forwarded from: Elizabeth Lennon <elizabeth.lennon () nist gov>

ITL BULLETIN, OCTOBER 2005

NATIONAL VULNERABILITY DATABASE: HELPING INFORMATION 
TECHNOLOGY SYSTEM USERS AND DEVELOPERS FIND CURRENT 
INFORMATION ABOUT CYBER SECURITY VULNERABILITIES

Shirley Radack, Editor
Computer Security Division
Information Technology Laboratory
National Institute of Standards and Technology
Technology Administration
U.S. Department of Commerce

The National Vulnerability Database (NVD) is a comprehensive database
of cyber security vulnerabilities in information technology (IT)
products that was developed by the National Institute of Standards and
Technology (NIST)  with the support of the National Cyber Security
Division (NCSD) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  
Integrating all publicly available U.S.  Government vulnerability
resources and including references to industry resources, the NVD is
updated hourly to provide the latest information about vulnerabilities
in IT products. The NVD is based on and is synchronized with the
Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE), a vulnerability naming
standard that was jointly developed by government, industry and
research organizations. NVD provides a fine-grained search engine and
database for assisting those using the CVE standard.

Vulnerabilities are software or system implementation flaws that can
cause serious weaknesses in the security of systems. These weaknesses
help to make systems attractive targets for attacks that can seriously
change or harm the confidentiality of data, the integrity of data and
the availability of systems. The NVD provides valuable information to
system managers, users, system administrators, and other security
professionals to help them learn about vulnerabilities and take steps
to correct them.

Features of the NVD

The National Vulnerability Database (NVD) is available on NIST's web
site at http://nvd.nist.gov. In mid-October, the NVD contained
information on more than 12,800 vulnerabilities. About ten new
vulnerabilities are discovered every day. The NVD can be used to
research the vulnerability history of a product and to view
vulnerability statistics and trends.

The NVD complements the suite of vulnerability management services
that the NCSD has made available by including all publicly known
vulnerabilities. NCSD's other vulnerability management products focus
only upon the most critical subset of vulnerabilities. For each
vulnerability, NVD provides reference information and links to other
government and industry resources.

NVD also integrates all publicly available U.S. Government
vulnerability resources and includes references to many industry
resources as well. The NVD provides direct access to United States
Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) vulnerability resources,
including US-CERT Technical Alerts and Vulnerability Notes. It also
provides a search engine for the Open Vulnerability and Assessment
Language (OVAL).

The entire NVD database can be downloaded for public use as an XML
feed from the NVD Download and Product Integration Page. This feature
enables developers to easily include this information within their IT
security products. NVD information, from the NIST site, is available
with no licensing restrictions. However, NIST appreciates credit when
appropriate within products, services, and reports that use the data,
and NIST welcomes information about how users are employing the data.

Users can search the NVD by employing different vulnerability
characteristics, including:

* vulnerability severity,
* software name and version number,
* vendor name,
* vulnerability type,
* vulnerability impact, and
* related exploit range.

In their searches, users may ask for those alerts that have been the
subject of US-CERT Technical Alerts, US-CERT Vulnerability Notes, and
OVAL queries.

Another useful feature of the NVD is support for generating
statistics. The database can be used to graph and chart
vulnerabilities discovered within a product or to graph and chart sets
of vulnerabilities containing particular characteristics, such as
remotely exploitable buffer overflows.

NIST contact information for the NVD is available at
http://nvd.nist.gov/contact.cfm.

Vulnerabilities and the CVE

Vulnerabilities are flaws that can be exploited by a malicious entity
to gain access or privileges that are greater than those that are
authorized on an information system. Many organizations use commercial
off-the-shelf security products and services to track, detect, or
counter known vulnerabilities. If these products use different names
for the same vulnerabilities, it is difficult to share information
about vulnerabilities between the databases and tools of the different
products and services.

The CVE helps to overcome this problem by providing a standard name
and standard description for each vulnerability or exposure. Currently
identified compatible products and services are listed on the
Compatible Products pages on the CVE website:
http://cve.mitre.org/compatible/

NIST recommends that CVE data be accessed from within NVD as more
information is available about vulnerabilities from within NVD. CVE
standards information is available at http://cve.mitre.org.

NIST Guidance on Use of CVE

NIST Special Publication 800-51, Use of the Common Vulnerability and
Exposures (CVE) Vulnerability Naming Scheme, by Peter Mell and Tim
Grance, September 2002, provides guidance on the use of the CVE within
the federal government.  This and other NIST publications are
available at the NIST website:  
http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/nistpubs/index.html.

NIST SP 800-51 advises agencies to acquire and use security-related IT
products that are compatible with the CVE vulnerability naming scheme.
CVE-compatible products and services include vulnerability scanners,
vulnerability databases, vulnerability advisory services,
vulnerability patch services, most intrusion detection systems, and
some firewalls. CVE compatibility is one important consideration among
other requirements such as functionality, cost, performance, and
architecture.

Secondly, agencies are also advised to periodically monitor their
systems for applicable vulnerabilities listed in the CVE vulnerability
naming scheme, using automated software tools. Since these tools may
not detect all CVE vulnerabilities, system and security administrators
now can use the NVD to check for new vulnerabilities. Further,
agencies are advised to use the CVE naming scheme in their
descriptions and communications on vulnerabilities with agency staff,
industry, and the public. Common names for vulnerabilities can help to
reduce confusion and improve accuracy of communications.

Related Guidance

Additional supporting guidance on managing vulnerabilities is
available in NIST Special Publication 800-40, version 2.0, Creating a
Patch and Vulnerability Management Program.

Disclaimer

Any mention of commercial products or reference to commercial
organizations is for information only; it does not imply
recommendation or endorsement by NIST nor does it imply that the
products mentioned are necessarily the best available for the purpose.


Elizabeth B. Lennon
Writer/Editor
Information Technology Laboratory
National Institute of Standards and Technology
100 Bureau Drive, Stop 8900
Gaithersburg, MD 20899-8900
Telephone (301) 975-2832
Fax (301) 975-2378



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