HomeCII/OTThe Decline of the National Vulnerability Database

The Decline of the National Vulnerability Database

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The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) established the National Vulnerability Database (NVD) to serve as a centralized hub for cybersecurity vulnerability intelligence, assuming rational decision-making by actors within the industry. However, recent revelations have brought to light a significant issue that has impacted the effectiveness of the NVD in recent times.

Since its inception nearly 25 years ago, the NVD has faced challenges that have hindered its ability to properly classify security concerns and prioritize vulnerabilities. Three key factors have played a role in the current state of the NVD, resulting in the recent halt on enriching vulnerabilities listed in the database.

The first factor affecting the NVD is the influx of credit-seeking contributors. Originally, vulnerabilities listed in the NVD were sourced from experienced researchers and practitioners, with the assignment of a common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVE) serving as recognition for their work. However, with the increasing significance of software security, aspiring researchers, often lacking experience, began to flood the industry with vulnerabilities in an attempt to gain recognition. This trend led to a decline in the quality of reports, as the focus shifted from quality to quantity.

The second factor impacting the NVD is the widespread accessibility of the Internet, allowing researchers from around the globe to contribute to cybersecurity efforts. This globalization opened the doors for security vulnerabilities to be monetized on the Dark Web, incentivizing some contributors to use vulnerabilities for malicious purposes rather than for the betterment of the industry.

In response to these challenges, bug bounties emerged as a monetary incentive for researchers to disclose vulnerabilities to vendors rather than exploit them for harm. However, this led to a shift in focus from quality research to a numbers game, where researchers aimed to push out as many reports as possible to secure a payout.

The impact of these factors on vendors has been significant, with an increase in security disclosures that often produce false positives and irrelevant findings. This influx of low-quality reports has forced vendors to spend more time sifting through useless information, diminishing the focus on quality research and exploitability.

To address these challenges, the cybersecurity community must reassess its reliance on the NVD and adapt its processes to meet the evolving dynamics of vulnerability management. The recent halt on enriched vulnerabilities in the NVD serves as a wake-up call for the industry to refine existing frameworks and foster an environment where genuine contributions are recognized, and noise is minimized.

A federated model, similar to the Central Naming Authorities (CNA) program introduced by the CVE, could provide a scalable solution for handling the growing number of vulnerabilities reported. By restructuring the systems and processes in place, the industry can ensure the integrity and efficacy of collective security efforts and better address the evolving landscape of cybersecurity threats.

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