[This was originally published on the OSVDB blog.]
A couple years back, I ran across musicplasma. For those not familiar with the engine, it allows you to type in your favorite music artist/band, and see “related” artists. So I type in “portishead” (mmmm) and see related bands like Tricky, and Sneakerpimps. These are all considered “trip-hop” so the links are expected. Moving a bit farther out, I start to see new bands (at the time) like Zero7, Air, or Hooverphonic (many of which are now on my playlist). So using this graphical representation, it is easy to see related bands and this type of tool is incredible for finding new music.
Shortly after, I started wondering what it would be like to use such an engine on vulnerabilities. What would it do, would it be valuable, would it help anyone? Two years later I still have the same questions, but lean toward the idea that it would be invaluable for vulnerability research, statistical analysis, and trending. People like CVE or OSVDB would love such a tool, and we’ve discussed the idea in the past. This most recently came up when Steven Christey (CVE) mailed asking what rules we adhered to for related OSVDB links within our database. As I said to him in e-mail, the cliff notes answer to if we have rules that govern this is “no”. I know, bad VDB! Despite that, there is a definite intention and desire for such links that would be used more strictly and consistently if we had developers to help us integrate our ideas into the actual database and front end. The gist of the related links is to eventually move toward an engine like MusicPlasma for vulnerabilities. Instead of rewriting portions of the mail I wrote, i’ll lazily quote some relevant parts:
Obviously a *great* tool for music given it is hard to find similar bands to the ones you like, given that most music reviews won’t even disclose if the lead singer is male or female, let alone the real style of the music beyond some pretty broad categories like “rock” or “rap”. Anyway, on an abstract level, using something like this to chart vulns and make an interface for users to chart vulnerabilities would be interesting. You visit osvdbplasma, click on PHP-Nuke, then graphically browse the issues but instead of just ‘similar’, you do it by age and severity. The closest to the PHP-Nuke ring would be the remote code execution on latest versions, then you could follow that out to older issues. You could choose a different path for XSS, Path Disclosure and other classes.
Like I said, maybe not so useful but it would look really cool(tm), and would make it more understandable to end users without much security experience (a long term goal of OSVDB).
Yep, another idea I had a while back, tracking the history of vulns in a set of products. Pick a few that cover a wide range .. Windows, Oracle, PHP-Nuke, John’s Blog. Then look at the vulnerabilities discovered in them, focusing on the types (SQL, PD, XSS, Overflow, etc). See if there are trends in the types discovered, then cross match it with (very rough) dates of when the class of vulnerability was discovered/announced (a task unto itself). Do any of these products get better? Worse? Are there trends on folks discovering the same types as they become ‘popular’ to research? All kinds of neat research to do here.
Not surprising, Christey replied quickly saying that he too had thought of this type of model to view vulnerabilities and added his own ideas for reasons and features of such a project. I don’t think he took me seriously when I suggested mugging top DHS officials to fund such a project.
A couple weeks ago, HexView Security Research brought this to life in the first generation of such an engine. Check out their vulnerability maps. Done in java, they tie in products and platforms to vulnerabilities showing how they are related. Currently, mousing over a vulnerability only offers a title and no additional information, but this is the first step! It’s very cool to see other companies and researchers looking into modeling this type of information.
Anyway, all of this goes back to a long running gripe OSVDB has about the industry and VDBs specifically, and that is lack of evolution. These types of projects would be incredibly fun to work on, and potentially offer great insight into vulnerabilities, research and product history. On the off chance someone reading this knows about rendering such data or has time/expertise, contact us! We’d love to abuse your knowledge and get you involved in making this project happen.