Distributed Weakness Filing System Enhances CVE Disclosures

The CVE number identification system offers a standard way to identify vulnerabilities, but a new add-on could help scale the system to meet growing demands.

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With the increasing volume of security bugs, it is more challenging than ever for the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) number identification system to scale properly to assign new numbers. That's where the new Distributed Weakness Filing system (DWF), designed to be a community-­powered supplement to CVE, could help.

CVE, operated by MITRE, offers a standard way to identify vulnerabilities and enables vendors, researchers and users to label specific security issues.

The DWF is not just about getting CVE numbers, and doing so more expediently, although that's a major goal, explained Kurt Seifried, security researcher at Red Hat and one of the leaders of the DWF effort.

"The DWF is also about experimenting with CVE; an example is that we have specified a data format for information related to the CVEs, such as severity information, workarounds and so on, that does not currently exist in the MITRE CVE database," Seifried told eWEEK. "Part of the DWF plan is to make the data not only available to read, but also to write, assuming the data coming back is of sufficient quality, for anyone."

However, DWF aims to help provide a more global perspective to CVE, which currently only covers mostly English, North American software and doesn't have good coverage of software originating in Japan, India, China, Russia and other countries, Seifried said. CVE also does not have great coverage within the medical industry, aerospace, cars and even the Internet of things. Broad-based CVE coverage is needed to make tracking and remediating security vulnerabilities easier, he said.

"The long-term plan for CVE [and DWF] as it stands now is to move to a 'federation' model, with MITRE remaining as the master of CVE and then a number of entities covering various spaces," Seifried explained. "DWF, for example, would focus on open source and, potentially, we could end up with country-/language-specific CVE entities, or industry verticals to cover specific technology use cases, like the software that governs self-driving cars."

Within the federated entities, a root entity could act as a CVE assigner and also help create additional CVE Numbering Authorities (CNAs) within that space—for example, specific open-source projects and groups will become CNAs under the DWF and assign CVEs for their own software—then pushing that data into the DWF database, from which anyone can use it as needed.

"Essentially, we'll use a classic scale-out, distributed trust model that has worked well for large open-source projects, such as the Linux Kernel," Seifried said.

Projects within DWF include the DWF-Database, DNA Registry, Consistency Checker, Security Library and DWF-CVE integration projects.

"When a CVE is submitted, these technologies come into play by helping to ensure that dates are formatted correctly, the CVE is assigned properly, the CVE assigner used the correct CVE, and so on," Seifried explained. "The final step is that the data is posted into the database automatically, rather than manually reducing [the] workload and the chance of errors."

The DWF effort is still at an early stage, with the first official vulnerability, identified as CVE-2016-1000000, publicly logged on May 18. Seifried explained that MITRE is in Stage 1, where they are not consuming DWF data; they are just marking CVEs as "RESERVED" once the DWF has assigned them.

"During Stage 2, MITRE will actually consume the DWF data [descriptions, etc.]; however, prior to Stage 2, MITRE wants to get the licensing and some other legalities all squared away, something that is being worked on with their lawyers and Red Hat's legal team," Seifried said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.