Canadian Cyber Security Journal
Filed under: News, Trends

The Evolving Cybersecurity Vulnerability Landscape

The cybersecurity landscape remains complex. While major vendors like Microsoft are patching vulnerabilities at rapid rates, attackers are becoming more sophisticated.

Overall, attacks climbed 20% globally across 2023. The rise of different attack types, the increase of AI-powered threats and the prevalence of unpatched vulnerabilities highlight the need for a multi-layered approach.

SonicWall firewalls thwarted over 3.28 million attacks related to Microsoft vulnerabilities in 2023, highlighting the importance of taking ‘Patch Tuesday’ seriously. The analysis revealed that while July had the highest number of vulnerabilities, December had the lowest. Microsoft also tracked vulnerabilities being actively exploited at the time of discovery, with July and November being key months.

Every year, many organisations’ primary focus is on patching vulnerabilities related to Remote Code Execution. However, among the 21 exploited vulnerabilities, over half were attributed to Elevation of Privilege and nearly one-fourth to Security Feature Bypass.

This suggests that while Remote Code Execution vulnerabilities are more newsworthy, in the context of Microsoft vulnerabilities, attackers tend to exploit Elevation of Privilege vulnerabilities more frequently.

Additionally, when considering Microsoft’s Exploitability Index, it revealed that while 107 vulnerabilities were more likely to be exploited, only four were added to CISA’s known exploited category post ‘Patch Tuesday’. Notably, three of these were Elevation of Privilege vulnerabilities, emphasising the prevalence of attackers targeting this category.

The disparity between the number of vulnerabilities and those actually exploited underscores the need for businesses to prioritise and monitor threats effectively.

Despite often receiving lower CVSS and exploitability probability scores, Elevation of Privilege vulnerabilities are frequently the most attractive to threat actors. Therefore, organisations should prioritise these vulnerabilities in their cybersecurity strategies.

Microsoft’s operating system, with a 72% market share, remains a prime target for cyber attackers. However, only about 3% of the 911 vulnerabilities addressed in 2023 were exploited. The low exploitation rate serves as a testament to Microsoft’s unwavering commitment to bolstering security, illustrating the escalating difficulty for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities within their ecosystem.

It’s crucial to understand that cybersecurity is not a one-time task but an ongoing process. As the threat landscape evolves, so too must our strategies to counter potential attacks. This involves not only staying abreast of the latest threats and vulnerabilities but also adapting our security measures accordingly. For instance, the shift towards remote and hybrid work models has introduced new challenges, necessitating the adoption of robust endpoint security solutions. Similarly, our focus should shift from relying only on CVSS criticality score, to using a combination of data driven metrics to understand what attackers are leveraging to attack business.

By continually assessing and updating their security posture, businesses can ensure they are well-equipped to handle the dynamic nature of cyber threats, thereby safeguarding their digital assets and maintaining the trust of their customers and stakeholders.

Businesses must adopt a proactive and informed approach to safeguard against vulnerabilities. Proactive measures such as focusing on building teams to perform product security testing in addition to regular patching, prioritising critical updates, and implementing a comprehensive vulnerability management program are essential.


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