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CWE Vs. CVE Vs. CVSS: What Are the Differences?

When protecting your digital infrastructure from threats, it’s critical to become familiar with security standards like CWE, CVE, and CVSS. These terms were developed and are maintained by MITRE, a nonprofit organization that operates research and development (R&D) centers sponsored by the U.S. government. We’ll talk about CWE, CVE, and CVSS in detail below.

Table of Contents

What Is CWE?

CWE stands for “Common Weakness Enumeration,” a community-developed list of common software vulnerabilities that have become a standard means to describe and categorize weaknesses that could lead to vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities can include system misconfigurations and code errors that haven’t been exploited in the wild yet. 

Why Is CWE Important?

CWE makes identifying and addressing software vulnerabilities, design flaws, programming errors, and configuration issues easier and quicker. Each weakness in the CWE list is assigned a unique identifier of 3 to 4 digits and contains detailed descriptions, examples, and guidance on mitigating or avoiding the weakness.

What Are Examples of CWE?

Below are some examples of CWE that are relevant to Internet-facing systems that could potentially expand your external attack surface.

  • CWE-200: Information Exposure: This weakness occurs when personal information, system data, network configurations, and other sensitive information are inadvertently exposed or disclosed in error messages, logs, or other system outputs, providing potential attackers valuable information that they can use to exploit the system.
  • CWE-326: Inadequate Encryption Strength: CWE-326 pertains to weak encryption algorithms or insufficient key lengths in external-facing resources.
  • CWE-346: Origin Validation Error: This flaw can occur when the source or destination of network traffic is improperly validated. CWE-346 may lead to spoofing attacks where attackers forge the origin of their incoming requests.
  • CWE-434: Unrestricted Upload of File with Dangerous Type: This vulnerability occurs when an application allows users to upload files without proper validation, leading to the execution of malicious code, file overwriting, or other security vulnerabilities.
  • CWE-601: URL Redirection to Untrusted Site (“Open Redirect”): This weakness arises when an application redirects users to a different website or URL without validating the target, potentially leading to phishing attacks, malware downloads, or other malicious activities.

The ones we mentioned above are just a few examples. There are currently more than a thousand CWEs. A list maintained by MITRE can be found here.

What Is CVE?

CVE, short for “Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures,” is also a standardized system for identifying and tracking publicly known vulnerabilities. However, unlike CWEs that focus on the vulnerability or flaw at a higher level, CVEs look at the vulnerability in the context of a specific product or system.

Each CVE has a unique CVE ID of 8 or more digits and follows the syntax CVE-YYYY-NNNN where “YYYY” indicates the year and “NNNN” are arbitrary digits.

Why Is CVE Important?

CVE serves as a common reference for vulnerabilities at the level of a specific system, platform, or technology, making it easier for security professionals, researchers, and organizations to collaborate and share much-needed information. 

What Are Examples of CVE?

Here are a few examples of CVE.

  • CVE-2021-34523: This vulnerability in Microsoft Exchange Server could be used to gain access to the victim’s SSL/TLS keys, allowing attackers to secretly intercept and change encrypted data during transmission.
  • CVE-2020-1350: Known as “SIGRed,” this CVE affects Windows DNS servers. It allows attackers to remotely run their own code on a server, potentially compromising the reliability and security of the DNS service.
  • CVE-2018-6789: This flaw affects Exim mail servers, hence it’s known as the “Exim Mail Server Vulnerability.” It enables remote attackers to execute commands on a server, potentially gaining unauthorized access or executing malicious actions.
  • CVE-2017-5638: This vulnerability affects Apache Struts, a widely used web application framework. It allows threat actors to run code on a server by exploiting a specific type of HTTP header, potentially leading to a complete server takeover.

More than 200,000 CVEs exist today, and the list continues to grow as new vulnerabilities get detected and added. You can access CVE records on this site maintained by MITRE. 

What Is CVSS and Why Is It Important?

Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) is a standardized framework to assess the severity and impact of cybersecurity vulnerabilities. It works by assigning numerical scores to vulnerabilities based on metrics, such as impact on an affected system’s availability and integrity and ease with which attackers can exploit a vulnerability.

CVSS scores range from 0 to 10, with 10 being the most severe. This framework benefits the cybersecurity community and security teams by:

  • Enabling them to prioritize responses to vulnerabilities
  • Making vulnerability assessments objective and consistent
  • Allowing for effective communication and collaboration among different stakeholders

CWE Vs. CVE Vs. CVSS: A Comparison

When comparing CWE vs. CVE vs. CVSS, it’s important to note that while they are instrumental in vulnerability management and may seem similar, each has varying purposes and focuses. The table below shows some of the main differences between CWE, CVS, and CVSS.

CWE Vs. CVE Vs. CVSS

They may differ, but CWE, CVE, and CVSS all contribute to better vulnerability management, secure coding practices, risk prioritization, and information sharing, ultimately helping to enhance the overall security posture of software and systems and supporting the collective effort of the cybersecurity community.

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