Application-Based Weaknesses

Web browsers are not the only aspect of software being abused by crackers. The application software written to run on servers and serve up the content for users is also a target. Web Application Security is a fairly hot topic in security, as it has become a prime target for professional crackers. Criminal hackers typically are after some form of financial reward, whether from stolen data, stolen identity, or some form of extortion. Attacking web-based applications has proven to be a lucrative venture for several reasons. First, the target is a rich environment as company after company has developed a customer facing web presence, often including custom-coded functionality that permits customer access to back-end systems for legitimate business purposes. Second, building these custom applications to high levels of security is a difficult if not impossible feat, especially given the corporate pressure on delivery time and cost.

Open Vulnerability and Assessment Language (OVAL)

The Mitre Corporation, a government-funded research group (, has done extensive research into software vulnerabilities. To enable collaboration among the many different parties involved in software development and maintenance, they have developed a taxonomy of vulnerabilities-the Common Vulnerability Enumeration (CVE). This is just one of the many related enumerations that they have developed in an effort to make machine-readable data exchanges to facilitate system management across large enterprises. The CVE led efforts such as the development of the Open Vulnerability and Assessment Language (OVAL). OVAL is comprised of two main elements, an XML-based machine readable language for describing vulnerabilities and a repository; see for more information.

In addition to the CVE and OVAL efforts, Mitre has developed a wide range of enumerations and standards designed to ease the automation of security management at the lowest levels across an enterprise. Additional efforts include

  • Attack Patterns (CAPEC)

  • Checklist Language (XCCDF)

  • Security Content Automation (SCAP)

  • Configurations (CCE)

  • Platforms (CPe)

  • Software Weakness Types (CWE)

  • Log Format (CEE)

  • Reporting (CRF)