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Exploring Vulnerability Exploits and Exploitability

Understand what it means for a vulnerability to be exploited and when the information is a trustworthy source for your vulnerability management and application security management. 

We’ve analysed the entirety of clear and dark web to bring you a snapshot of confirmed exploits in the wild. 

This comprehensive guide delves deep into the world of exploitability, unravelling its meaning, significance, and the intricate role it plays in the dynamic landscape of cybersecurity.

What is an Exploit or Exploitability?

At its core, exploitability refers to the potential or likelihood of a vulnerability being exploited by malicious actors to compromise systems, applications, or networks.

Exploiting Vulnerabilities: In the context of cybersecurity, exploitability centers on how attackers can use vulnerabilities to their advantage. It hinges on the idea that some vulnerabilities are more easily exploitable than others due to factors like system architecture, complexity, and attacker expertise. For a wider definition

We will explore in those pages the concept of what makes a vulnerability exploitable when there is a zero-day, when and how to use threat intelligence to identify the presence of exploits abused by hackers and nation-state actors. 

Other detailed deep dives are available here

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Unpacking Exploitability
in Cybersecurity

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Exploitability's Crucial Role

Exploitability plays a pivotal role in determining the severity of a vulnerability. A highly exploitable defect poses a significant threat as it can be leveraged to breach systems and launch attacks.

Highly exploited might mean:

  • Threat actors are looking at the vulnerability, 
  • there are a lot of links in various sources with the exploit
  • The exploit has been published in widely adopted vulnerability tools like exploitdb, metaexploit, nuclei 
  • the vulnerability is marked as high exploited in EPSS (EPSS > 0.5 0.6)
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Vulnerability
vs. Exploit:

It’s crucial to differentiate between vulnerability and exploit. A vulnerability is a weakness in a system, whereas an exploit is a specific technique used to capitalize on that weakness.

A vulnerability can be executed frequently if there are the following conditions:

  • The vulnerability has a verified exploit available (e.g. CISA KEV) 
  • The vulnerability is highly exploited in EPSS
  • The vulnerability has verified exploits in VulnDB and other reference public databases 

Digging into the Mechanics:

Exploits: What Are They?

Exploits are pieces of software or code specifically designed to capitalize on vulnerabilities. They enable attackers to perform unauthorized actions, gain unauthorized access, or compromise systems.

How Exploits Work:

Exploits function by targeting a vulnerability's specific weaknesses. Attackers craft exploits that manipulate vulnerabilities, enabling them to execute malicious code, steal data, or gain control.

Analyzing Trending Data:

Explore the data for exploits, zero day and other vulnerability intelligence to discover withc product has been exploited the most over the years

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cwe, vulnerability management, phoenix security exploitability vulnerability management appsec epss Cybersecurity Vulnerability Exploit Application Security Threat Actor Zero-Day EPSS Vulnerability Management Threat Intelligence OWASP Top 10 Exploitability Security Breach Cyber Threat Digital Security Software Vulnerability Compensating Controls MetaSploit ExploitDB Nuclei Phoenix Security

Exploitability Overview

Exploits are the sinister mechanisms that turn vulnerabilities into real-world security breaches. They operate at the heart of the vulnerability landscape, targeting what's exploitable within software systems. Threat actors keenly scrutinize vulnerabilities, seeking entry points into digital fortresses. This predatory process often begins with a vulnerability being discovered and documented. What sets the wheels in motion is the presence of published exploits in various sources, forming a chain of potential threats. These exploits, with their ominous potential, find their way into widely adopted vulnerability tools like ExploitDB, MetaSploit, and Nuclei, adding to their malevolent arsenal.

What truly underscores the gravity of an exploit's existence is its designation in tools like the Exploit Prediction Scoring System (EPSS), where an EPSS score above a certain threshold, say 0.5 or 0.6, marks a vulnerability as "high exploited." This correlation between exploit availability and a high EPSS score serves as a beacon of warning for cybersecurity practitioners and underscores the significance of vulnerability management and robust application security measures.

In this complex ecosystem, understanding the interplay between exploitability, exploits, vulnerabilities, and the management thereof is paramount to safeguarding digital assets and maintaining a resilient security posture.












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ZERO DAY exploits (exploitable vulnerabilities)

Zero Day are the beginning of a vulnerability exploit when there is still no fix. Responsible disclosure ensure zero day are not released in the wild before vendor can issue a patch but sometimes exploits get compromised by threat actors and attackers before disclosure happen.

In this set we explore the exploit before a fix is available and how this has changed over the years. Exploits They can be particularly menacing when they involve zero-day vulnerabilities, which are previously unknown to software developers or vendors. Threat actors keenly eye these unpatched weaknesses, understanding that they are inherently difficult to defend against because there are no fixes readily available. Instead, organizations must rely on compensating controls and vigilant vulnerability management to mitigate the risks posed by zero-day exploits.

The treacherous path of exploitation begins with the discovery of a vulnerability, often documented by security researchers or attackers. Once a vulnerability is known, it doesn't take long for links to emerge in various sources, pointing to the exploit's existence. These exploits find their way into widely adopted vulnerability tools like ExploitDB, MetaSploit, and Nuclei, exponentially amplifying their threat potential.

The real alarm bell rings when a vulnerability achieves a high exploitation score in the Exploit Prediction Scoring System (EPSS), surpassing the threshold, perhaps 0.5 or 0.6. This score indicates that the vulnerability is not merely theoretical; it's actively being exploited in the wild.

In this intricate landscape, understanding the dynamics of exploitability, exploits, and their relationship to vulnerability management and application security is paramount. Organizations must stay vigilant, ready to employ compensating controls and proactive security measures to defend against these cunning and ever-evolving threats.

More details on Exploitability

Owasp top 10 has been a pillar over the years; sister to CWE – Common Weakness Enumeration we provide an overview of the top software vulnerabilities and web application security risks with a data-driven approach focused on helping identify what risk to fix first.
Francesco Cipollone
With cyber threats growing in sophistication, understanding exploitability has become crucial for security teams to prioritize vulnerabilities effectively. This article explores the key factors that influence the likelihood of exploits in the wild, including attack vectors, complexity levels, privileges required, and more. You’ll learn how predictive scoring systems like EPSS are bringing added dimensions to vulnerability analysis, going beyond static scores. We discuss the importance of monitoring verified threat feeds and exploiting trends from reliable sources, instead of getting distracted by unverified claims and noise. Adopting a risk-based approach to prioritization is emphasized, where critical vulnerabilities are addressed not just based on CVSS severity, but also their likelihood of being exploited and potential business impact. Recent major exploits like Log4Shell are highlighted to stress the need for proactive security. Equipped with the insights from this guide, you’ll be able to implement a strategic, data-backed approach to focusing on the most pertinent risks over the barrage of vulnerabilities.
Francesco Cipollone

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