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Software vulnerabilities on the march

Already more than last year… with more to come

The number of software security vulnerabilities identified during the first eight months of this year has already gone past the total recorded for all of 2005, according to ISS (Internet Security Systems). By the end of September 06 vulnerabilities found by security experts, hackers and others had reached 5,300 - more than the 5,195 discovered for all of 2005, said Gunter Ollmann, director of the X-Force research group at ISS.

"Eight hundred seventy-one were found to affect Microsoft operating systems," Ollmann said. About 3,219 vulnerabilities cross platform boundaries to affect all OSes, including Linux.

ISS ranks vulnerabilities as critical, high, medium and low. Of the 5,300 vulnerabilities recorded for 2006 so far, 0.4 percent were deemed critical (could be used to form a prolific automated worm); 16.6 percent were deemed high (could be exploited to gain control of the host running the software); 63 percent were medium (could be used to access files or escalate privileges); and 20 percent were low (vulnerabilities that leak information or would allow a DoS [denial-of-service] attack).

The biggest single classes of vulnerabilities in 2006 so far, according to ISS, would allow cross-site scripting (14.5 percent), SQL injection (10.9 percent); buffer overflows (10.8 percent) and web directory path traversal (3 percent).

Of the 5,300 vulnerabilities identified during 2006 so far, 87.6 percent could be exploited remotely, 10.8 percent could be exploited from the local host only and 1.6 percent could be exploited remotely and local.

The only good news, according to ISS, is that 2006 critical and high risk vulnerabilities have decreased 8 percent from 2005, when they accounted for 28 percent.

ISS is assembling data on September, and Ollmann predicts there will be a surge of more software vulnerabilities before the end of 2006. "The last quarter is often the busiest," he said.


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