Unpatched code is computer code that contains known security vulnerabilities. Unpatched vulnerabilities refer to weaknesses that allow attackers to leverage a known security bug that has not been patched by running malicious code. When software vendors discover these vulnerabilities, they add patches to their code.
Adversaries often probe into your software, looking for unpatched systems and attacking them directly or indirectly. Unpatched software is dangerous. This is because attackers get the time to become aware of the software’s unpatched vulnerabilities before a patch emerges.
A report found that unpatched vulnerabilities are the most consistent and primary ransomware attack vectors. It was recorded that in 2021, 65 new vulnerabilities arose that were connected to ransomware. This was observed to be a twenty-nine percent growth compared to the number of vulnerabilities in 2020.
Ransomware groups are not limited to single cases. They have started looking at groups of multiple vulnerabilities, third-party applications prone to vulnerabilities, protocols concerning technology, etc. These groups are known to have even gone so far as to recruit insiders to launch attacks.
Warnings concerning the cyber security threats of unpatched vulnerabilities to critical infrastructure entities have been issued by various governmental institutions such as the FBI, the National Security Agency, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and the Homeland Security Department.
This blog discusses a few examples of vulnerabilities and how updating applications can help prevent cyberattacks.
The Top 3 Most Severe Vulnerabilities in 2021
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) reported finding 18,378 vulnerabilities in 2021. According to HackerOne, software vulnerabilities increased by 20% in 2021 compared to 2020.
The Common Weakness Enumeration, a community-developed list of software and hardware weakness types, recorded the top 25 most dangerous software weaknesses (CWE Top 25). This list consists of the most common and impactful issues experienced over the previous two calendar years. The top three most severe vulnerabilities recorded in 2021 are:
- Out-of-bounds Write: In this type of vulnerability, the software writes data past the intended buffer’s end or before its beginning. This results in data corruption, crash, or code execution. In simple terms, it causes memory corruption. It is a result of writing to invalid memory or that which is beyond the buffer’s bounds. The sequential copy of excessive data originating from a location is only one of the many other causes.
- Cross-site Scripting: This is also known as ‘Improper Neutralization of Input During Web Page Generation.’ Here, user-controlled input is not neutralized or is improperly neutralized before it is placed in output that is then used as a web page served to other users.
These software vulnerabilities enable attackers to introduce client-side scripts into web pages viewed by other users. It is used to bypass access controls like the same-origin policy.
- Out-of-bounds Read: The software reads data past the end or before the beginning of the intended buffer in this kind of application vulnerability. Hackers can access sensitive information through unauthorized memory leaks and can crash the system. Crashes occur when an external code piece attempts to read variable amounts of data. When it comes across a sentinel, the reading operation is stopped during the process, resulting in a buffer overflow or segmentation fault.
Why is Updating Applications Important?
Software vulnerabilities can be prevented by testing your software using application vulnerability assessment tools, white box testing, black-box testing, and other techniques and updating it regularly. You can define a set of principles to be followed in developing each software release to prevent vulnerabilities. Sign your code digitally using a code signing certificate to maintain a tamper-proof code. This will help ensure digital safety and avoid security issues.
An ideal and effective patch management process should include an audit system to identify patches and vulnerable systems, deploy updates, and automate the patch management process.
Software updates can include repairing security holes adding new features and/or software patches. Outdated ones can be removed from your device, and new features can be introduced to upgrade the application security and prevent unpatched vulnerabilities.
Security holes have been closed, so your data are safe from hackers. This prevents hackers from gaining access to your documents and personal information, which could be used to commit criminal acts. Ransomware attacks can cause data to be encrypted. Remediating vulnerabilities in the applications can also cut the chances of hackers accessing the data of people you contact.
A hacking attack can damage the reputation of an enterprise. It is important to have a robust vulnerability management and patch management system in place and that you keep your applications updated regularly.
A report by Redscan Labs showed that 90% of all common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) uncovered in 2021 could be exploited by attackers without any technical skills. The report classifies 54% of vulnerabilities as having “high” availability. They are easily exploitable or readily available to hackers.
This makes it important to understand what CVEs are and what needs to be done to prevent them. The first step to this is to analyze and regularly update your applications with security monitoring tools like Indusface WAS. Secondly, an effective way to tamper-proof your website is to use a code signing certificate.
Unpatched vulnerabilities can pose a threat to your data and digital security. Thus, it is incumbent upon software vendors to understand and follow procedures to ensure patching of website and application vulnerabilities.