March 22, 2024

The NVD Disruption: Navigating Through Uncertainty in Cybersecurity

Zaira Pirzada

Vice President | Marketing

In recent weeks, a significant disruption has unfolded at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), impacting its National Vulnerability Database (NVD) and, by extension, the global cybersecurity landscape. The NVD, a cornerstone in the cybersecurity defense mechanisms of organizations worldwide, has faced unprecedented delays and gaps in its analysis of Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs) since February 12, 2024. 

The Heart of the Issue

The NVD’s analysis process has nearly ground to a halt, with a staggering 42% of CVEs lacking critical metadata such as severity scores (CVSS) and affected product information. This hiatus in analysis not only leaves over 2,400 entries unenriched but also poses a direct threat to organizations that rely on this database for vulnerability prioritization and remediation. The absence of timely data hampers their ability to make informed decisions regarding patch management and risk mitigation strategies, significantly increasing their vulnerability to potential breaches.

Understanding the Crisis & Its Repercussions

The National Vulnerability Database (NVD), operational since 2005, has played a pivotal role in the cybersecurity infrastructure by documenting vulnerabilities reported by global security researchers. Recently, the NVD experienced a significant disruption, posting a cryptic notice about “delays in analysis efforts” due to new tool and method implementations by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This vague announcement left the cybersecurity community in the dark, as no additional explanations were provided.

This disruption has notably decreased the operational tempo of NVD updates, with a stark reduction in the number of vulnerabilities being processed. Before this freeze, NIST would update CVEs with crucial metadata, which could take weeks or months after the initial discovery. Now, almost half of the 6,000 new CVEs reported since the start of the year lack essential details, such as which software is affected—information critical for assessing the severity and required response to these vulnerabilities.

Implications of the Disruption:

1 Increased Attack Surface
The slowdown has left over 2,400 CVE entries unprocessed, causing organizations to operate without clear insights into the severity and applicability of these vulnerabilities. This situation exacerbates the risk of attacks, as enterprises cannot effectively gauge their exposure.
2 Operational Paralysis
The absence of critical NVD data hampers the ability of IT and security teams to prioritize patches and allocate resources effectively. This uncertainty leads to inefficient defensive measures against potential breaches, leaving systems vulnerable for extended periods.
3 Compliance Risks
Many organizations rely on NVD data to comply with various regulatory frameworks. The current gaps in vulnerability documentation compromise these efforts, exposing companies to potential legal and financial repercussions.
4 Market Response
In response to the NVD’s shortcomings, there has been a marked increase in the development of alternative databases by private entities and other organizations. For instance, efforts like VulnCheck’s NVD++ and the Open Vulnerability Database (OVD) have been initiated to provide more comprehensive and accessible vulnerability data. These efforts are particularly significant in the face of the NVD’s limitations on query rates, which these new initiatives do not impose.
5 Global Implications
Internationally, other countries, such as China, have started to establish their own vulnerability databases, which could have geopolitical implications, particularly if these databases restrict access to critical information that could be used to mitigate vulnerabilities effectively.

As the cybersecurity community continues to navigate this challenging landscape, the need for a systematic and adaptive approach to vulnerability management is underscored. The concept of Continuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM) becomes even more relevant, providing a structured method to continuously assess and address vulnerabilities, particularly in the context of such disruptions.

What is CTEM?

Continuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM) is a comprehensive framework designed to tackle the ever-expanding threat landscape, where vulnerabilities and attack surfaces are on the rise due to the proliferation of technologies like OT, IoT, CPS, and SaaS. CTEM extends beyond traditional vulnerability management by considering misconfigurations, counterfeit assets, and susceptibility to phishing, among other risks. At its core, CTEM is about making informed decisions on what vulnerabilities can be postponed based on business risk, thereby avoiding diagnostic fatigue without relevant business context. This approach demands a shift from generic, rarely-actioned remediations to prioritizing risk reduction strategies that integrate a wide set of exposures. By focusing on the exploitability and impact of threats in relation to an organization’s digital and physical assets, CTEM provides a structured workflow for continuous and consistent threat exposure management. This not only helps in maintaining a dynamic security posture over time but also ensures that the organization’s approach to cybersecurity is both actionable and aligned with its business objectives.

The Solution: Uni5 Xposure by Hive Pro

HiveForce Labs, the in-house R&D team at Hive Pro, has developed a sophisticated system to classify and manage exposure findings in Uni5 Xposure effectively, particularly during periods of disruption like the recent challenges faced by the NVD.Uni5 Xposure differentiates itself by delivering specific contextual insights that go beyond the generic metadata typically provided by NVD. Through the capabilities of HiveForce Labs, the platform provides:

  1. Continuous Reporting and Contextualization: Even when NVD entries are delayed or missing, including published CVEs pending analysis that lack critical metadata such as severity (CVSS) scores and affected product information, Uni5 Xposure remains vigilant. For those thousands of vulnerabilities receiving the status “AWAITING”, or that lack critical metadata, we continuously gather and analyze vulnerability data from various resources and enrich. We enrich the information received or compensate for the gaps with threat intelligence that is specifically contextualized to your enterprise’s environment. This extensive data collection includes, but is not limited to, geographical location, industry vertical, and asset criticality—each of which is crucial for implementing tailored security measures. With this information, you are assured continuous, focused, and contextualized data against all vulnerabilities.
  2. Dynamic Threat Evaluation: The platform evaluates the likelihood of threats being exploited in the wild and the efficacy of compensatory controls. In situations where scoring may be low or unavailable, Uni5 Xposure can simulate attacks to provide realistic risk assessments, helping organizations prioritize their responses more effectively.
  3. Implementation of IoCs: Whenever indicators of compromise (IoCs) are available, Uni5 Xposure aids in swiftly implementing safeguarding measures, enhancing the organization’s defensive posture against active threats.
  4. Coverage of Non-CVE Vulnerabilities and Misconfigurations: Recognizing major blind spots in the CVE system, Uni5 Xposure addresses non-CVE vulnerabilities and security findings, including critical misconfigurations. This coverage is essential as these issues often go unreported in NVD, yet pose significant risks.

The backlog and contextless nature of entries in the NVD create a significant challenge in vulnerability management. Uni5 Xposure overcomes these issues by not only providing real-time insights but also ensuring that vulnerabilities, including those not yet analyzed or recorded by NVD, are identified and addressed promptly. By integrating advanced machine learning models with expert human analysis, the platform ensures the accuracy and relevance of its findings, thereby enhancing the overall security posture of organizations.

By leveraging Uni5 Xposure, organizations gain unprecedented visibility into their attack surface, enabling them to proactively address vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by adversaries. This proactive approach not only compensates for the shortcomings of the NVD but also enhances Hive Pro’s ability to respond swiftly and effectively to emerging threats, ensuring compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

A Hopeful Path Forward

The disruption at the NVD has underscored the fragility of our collective cybersecurity defenses and the critical need for innovative solutions. It highlights the importance of adopting a programmatic, threat-informed approach to vulnerability management, with Continuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM) at its core. In this time of uncertainty, Uni5 Xposure by Hive Pro emerges not just as a tool but as a necessary foundation for organizations seeking to fortify their defenses against evolving threats. The path forward to build cyber resilience in the face of evolving threats is clear for us at Hive Pro. We aim to give you the widest visibility into your threat exposure and the means to eliminate it.

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