I have read a number of speculative articles recently, discussing the number of bulletins and vulnerabilities released\resolved by Microsoft. Was it due to the introduction of Windows 10, Edge and several other product releases this year? I am going to say no. Let’s expand out past looking at just Microsoft and I think you will agree as well.
Taking a look from a vendor perspective, Microsoft finished 2015 with 135 security bulletins released with a total of 571 vulnerabilities resolved. This is the highest bulletin count over the previous shared 2010/2013 high of 106 bulletins. This also tops last year’s all-time vulnerability high of 376 vulnerabilities resolved across 85 bulletins and is more than double the vulnerabilities resolved than 13 of the last 15 years.
Even with 571 vulnerabilities resolved, Microsoft took the No. 2 spot on the Top 50 vendor list on CVE-Details. No. 1 goes to Apple, who finished 2015 with 654 vulnerabilities. Mac OS X contributed 384 of those vulnerabilities, which is more than three times the 2014 count of 130 vulnerabilities resolved. This jumped them from No. 5 in 2014 to No. 1 this year.
Cisco came in third this year with a new all-time high of 480 vulnerabilities resolved. This only tops its previous 2013 high by around 50 vulnerabilities.
Oracle is in the No. 4 spot this year and is the only vendor in the top five that finished the year without topping its vulnerability high. They resolved 479, which is down from their 2013 record of 496 vulnerabilities.
Adobe finished the year in fifth place (up from No. 8) with 440 vulnerabilities resolved. This is a new all-time high and also more than double the previous 2010 record of 207 vulnerabilities. This jump comes from the staggering 295 vulnerabilities resolved in Adobe Flash Player in 2015.
Here is a visual recap of the Top 5:
As you can see there is a trend here and there are many contributing factors. Exploits and breaches are on the rise. One of my favorite visual examples of this trend is the POS Breaches Timeline from OpenDNS Security Labs. It starts back in 2002 with a six-year gap until the next major event. As you go forward there is an explosion in 2012 and it keeps increasing rapidly. This timeline focuses just on Point of Sale (POS) breaches, but the visual is on a similar trajectory to the broader security industry trend. Threat actors are better organized, better funded and there are more tools available to them than ever before. Off-the-shelf exploit kits are a competitive product market in today’s dark web hacking services markets and the number of products and increase in features they provide coincide with the drastic increase in breaches we have seen since 2012.
The exploit gap is also shrinking. From the time an update is released to when a vulnerability is resolved, baring a Zero Day, you have about two weeks before the exploits start to hit. According to the Verizon 2015 Breach Report, 50 percent of vulnerabilities that will be exploited are exploited in two–four weeks of release of an update from the vendor. One of the contributors to the Verizon Breach Report, Kenna Security, released an additional report that goes further out and shows that 90 percent of vulnerabilities that will be exploited are exploited within 40–60 days of an update being made available from the vendor. They go on to discuss that many enterprises struggle to release updates within 120 days. In fact, 99.9 percent of vulnerabilities exploited in 2014 were exploited more than a year after an update was made available to resolve the vulnerability. In the case of web exploits that time falls to less than 24 hours for major vulnerabilities.
We have a general upward trend of exploits and a shrinking window between updates from a vendor and exploit code being made available to take advantage of the resolved CVEs. Events of the three previous years set the stage for vendors in 2015. Let’s take a look at our top 5 vendors and talk a about how this trend may have affected each.
Apple has a combination of OS, Browser, and Media player products all of which are prime targets for attackers. Mac OS X is gaining in popularity, but so is OS X related malware. “There’s been an unprecedented rise in Mac OS X malware this year, according to security researchers at Bit9 + Carbon Black, with the number of samples found in 2015 being five times that seen in the previous five years combined.” With such a prolific increase in negative attention, Apple has had to step up its game on resolving vulnerabilities. The company is digging into and resolving vulnerabilities in components that likely did not receive the same level of attention in years past.
Microsoft has long held the OS market and it has built out browsers, media players and the Office suite of products. Microsoft has been a big target for a long time and there is no question that the trends we are seeing would have directly affected them. The thing I will add here is Windows 10 and Edge were likely much less significant in their contributions. OS bulletins released since Windows 10 have affected earlier versions of the Windows OS similarly and the same vulnerabilities were being addressed across different versions, so there were few net new vulnerabilities introduced by Windows 10. If you look at a filtered view of CVE’s affecting Windows 10 you will see in the description a list of many of the currently supported OS versions also affected. Edge did contribute additional security bulletins that would not have been in the mix otherwise, but most of the CVEs affected other components of the OS and IE browser as well. Similar to Apple, the increase of CVEs is in part due to the fact that they are focused on hardening shared components and products that previously were not being targeted.
Cisco did have an influx of CVEs resolved this year and a new all-time high, but the increase was not nearly as large as Apple, Microsoft or Adobe. Cisco does have its proprietary OS for its devices and it has a count on par with many of the individual Windows OS and Linux distributions, as far as CVE counts. It has other products, such as Cisco Anyconnect VPN, that could be an ideal target for attackers, but it does not have a browser or wildly popular media player products (as we will talk about with our No. 4 and No. 5 vendors). With Cisco, the huge list of products is the other significant contributing factor with over a thousand products with small contributions to get them into the No. 3 spot.
Oracle is down from its record 496 CVEs in 2013. It was the only vendor of the top five that didn’t set new CVE records this year. Probably the most high-profile product with security issues in the Oracle portfolio is Java. Java has been a high-profile target due to its popularity and availability worldwide. More importantly, Java is one of those products that gets neglected too often. Older applications built to run on Java often required a specific version of Java. If you updated Java, you broke the application. This resulted in an easily exploitable scenario that treat actors have taken advantage of for years and still do. It was so easily exploitable that a site was created to track how many days since the last Java Zero Day. Oracle went through some changes in the past few years and its security practice seems to be paying off. It reached 723 days without a Zero Day until CVE-2015-2590 hit earlier this year. It is back up over 150 days since the last Zero Day and its total CVE count (80) is trending down from the 2013 peak of 180 CVEs resolved.
Adobe charged into the top five this year with the most significant increase over the previous year. With over three times the increase in CVEs resolved, Adobe had a busy year and much of the attention was on Adobe Flash Player. Adobe Flash Player has gained the same broad use and popularity that caused Java to become a target. It has, quite possibly, topped Java for its notoriety as a vulnerable product. This year Adobe faced a staggering eight Zero-Day streak. Early in the year three Zero-Days were reported in a two-week span. The Hacking Team breach uncovered a few more mid year and it did not stop there. Security experts have called for the death of Flash Player from Brian Krebs’ life without Flash Player series to tech giant Google killing Flash in its browser. Flash Player contributed 295 of the 440 total Adobe CVE count for 2015, which more than doubled the 2014 count of 138 on its own. Adobe is trying to move away from Flash and in January 2016 it will restrict distribution of Flash Player by removing it from its public download pages and restricting access to companies with Adobe Enterprise Agreements in place.
So from the pattern we are seeing, OS and commonly used media products are a significant contributor to counts for our top 5 vendors. Browser is another significant contributor. Apple Safari and Microsoft Internet Explorer and Edge contributed 135 and 231 CVEs respectively to their vendor’s total counts this year. Two vendors worth noting that did not quite make the top five are Google and Mozilla. Google Chrome contributed 185 out of Google’s total 321, putting them in the No. 6 spot for vulnerabilities by vendor. Mozilla Firefox contributed 177 out of 187 total placing them at No. 8 for vendors in 2015. So in the great browser faceoff, you have the following:
- Microsoft Internet Explorer with 231 CVEs falls in at No. 4 for vulnerable products and No. 1 for browsers.
- Google Chrome with 185 CVEs falls in at No. 8 for products and No. 2 for browsers.
- Mozilla Firefox with 177 CVEs falls in at No. 9 for products and No. 3 for browsers.
- Apple Safari with 135 CVEs falls in at No. 19 for products and No. 4 for browsers.
- Microsoft Edge with 27 CVEs makes the list, but I would not place them this year as they were a late year entry into the race. We will see where they fall next year.
Overall you can rest assured that if you are running a computer with an operating system, a variety of media player products and a browser, you are as vulnerable as you can possibly be. The window between product release and exposure has shrunk considerably, so you need to be proactive and effective in deciding what you will deploy and how frequently. So what to do? You need to bring your processes and tools up to a new level to deal with these threats.
- Updates can break critical systems. Yes, but with proper prioritization you can reduce this risk by making sure to deliver updates for the most likely to be exploited vulnerabilities. There are threat indicators out there that will tell you much of what you need to know. You can join our Shavlik Patch Tuesday webinarseries where we discuss updates that occur on the infamous Patch Tuesday, as well as other releases and indicators that will help you here. We will be posting 2016 versions of that series shortly and you can catch a playback of the December webinar there as well.
- I run maintenance once a month and users complain about that event. You want me to update more frequently? Yes, we are absolutely saying any system with an end user must be updated more than once a month if you are going to weather this storm. Features of our Shavlik Protect + Empower products are specifically designed to ensure you can reach users wherever they go and also work around their needs to reboot and finalize installs of updates effectively. The ProtectCloud enabled agents allow you to push policy updates to systems that reside off network without opening security risks to your network or the end user system. We host this service for you and provide it as part of the base feature set of our product so you can reach those systems and ensure you can report on them no matter how long they stay off network. With our SafeReboot technology you can provide the user a variety of reboot options from deferring reboot for up to seven days, reboot at logoff or at next occurrence of a specified time.
- I am on SCCM and cannot switch to another solution, so how do I cover the frequency of product updates and the number of products that are on my network? We have a plug-in for Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager. It is called Shavlik Patchand provides our catalog of third-party updates, including those we spoke about above, so you can quickly publish those updates in SCCM and not change your infrastructure or processes you have in place.