The end of the year could hardly be better: Greenbone can look back on the most successful year in its company history. After 15 years, the Osnabrück-based company has grown into a successful public limited company in 2023. Greenbone has grown from 50 to 120 employees within the space of a year, and the journey is far from over: not only EU legislation, but also various collaborations and commitments are enabling further growth. We look back on 2023 and thank our customers, partners, and the OpenVAS community.

A successful year at one glance

The growth can be seen both in the Greenbone blog, which had ten times more readers in 2023, and in the new community portal – a big thank you goes to the large Greenbone community!

In addition to numerous reports on vulnerabilities from VMware to Microsoft, Atlassian, Citrix and many others, we were able to report on projects with the  Center for Internet Security (CIS), the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), and the OSB Alliance – Federal Association for Digital Sovereignty.”

We also continue to participate in studies by renowned universities such as the “Comparison of the Security of Open-Source Software and Proprietary Software” by Dr. Marc Ohm (Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn).

Zero Days, Log4j, Citrix, Atlassian, Sharepoint

We warned of serious vulnerabilities, all of which had already been detected with suitable tests developed by our specialists in the Greenbone Enterprise Appliances – our customers were always warned and in many cases were able to protect themselves proactively. Whether ransomware threatened companies via VMware EsXi, or via Outlook Zero days, the aftermath of the Log4j disaster from 2022 or the critical errors in Citrix Netscaler, Confluence, f5 Big IP or Sharepoint, Greenbone customers were forewarned and provided with tests.

Greenbone tests web applications …

In 2023, we have also increased our commitment in other areas: We now also test your web applications. We operate strictly in accordance with GDPR regulations, we are ISO 27001/9001 certified and have outstanding security experts. As with our vulnerability management products, you will also receive detailed reports on your security situation with clear instructions for action, which the Greenbone experts will be happy to help you implement.

… and is present at international trade fairs, congresses and panels.

We also increased our presence at international trade fairs this year: we attended the ITSA, the PITS (“Public IT Security”) congress organized by Behördenspiegel and the renowned Open Source Experience 2023 (OSXP) in Paris. At the PITS congress, Greenbone CEO Jan-Oliver Wagner was also invited as an expert to share his knowledge at the panel discussion “Putting your finger in the wound – manage or close vulnerabilities?” moderated by Katharina Sook Hee (National Cyber Defense Center of the BSI).

There was broad agreement that “vulnerability management is becoming increasingly important”. This is also due to new legislation, which is leading to more and more vulnerabilities being reported, a general increase in awareness and more draconian penalties for companies that disregard compliance rules, for example. The pressure is increasing, even for companies that are not KRITIS.

Regulation makes vulnerability management mandatory.

At the same time, the vulnerabilities identified are getting older, have been open for longer than before and are being exploited increasingly quickly, with ransomware remaining the top threat.

It is no wonder that both the German government and the EU have recognized the signs of the times: The federal government is investing extensively in cybersecurity, and the EU’s Cyber Resilience Act also prescribes packages of measures that make vulnerability management a la Greenbone mandatory in many companies.

Together with the BSI: the new SMP federal portal

Together with the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), we have therefore introduced the Greenbone SMP-Bund portal. As a central point of contact for IT security and vulnerability management, it offers authorities concrete support with the current challenges of IT security.

In addition to extensive information and a forum for exchanging ideas on vulnerability management, the portal also offers direct access to Greenbone support, contact with our sales team and exclusive conditions with Greenbone framework agreements.

2023 was a good 15th year for Greenbone, we would like to take this opportunity to thank all customers, partners, and the community again, without your help none of this would be possible.

Thank you, happy holidays and a happy new year!

We at Greenbone are excited to introduce the innovative Greenbone SMP-Bund-Portal in collaboration with the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI). As a leading provider of IT security solutions, we are proud to offer this platform specifically tailored to the needs of federal agencies.

A Portal Setting Standards

The Greenbone SMP-Bund-Portal is the central point of contact for IT security and vulnerability management. It has been developed to provide agencies with concrete support in addressing current IT security challenges.

Many Advantages for Federal Agencies

  1. Easy-to-Understand Insights: The portal offers clear and user-friendly information about vulnerability management. It is ideal for both beginners and experts in IT security.
  2. Exclusive Framework Contract Conditions: Federal agencies enjoy special offers and benefits. The obligation to issue public tenders is eliminated, saving time and resources.
  3. Personal Support: Our competent support team is always at our customers’ side to answer questions and ensure support.
  4. Direct Access to the Agency Sales Team: Expert advice from our team, which is well-versed in the specific requirements of federal agencies. We look forward to furthering our trusted collaboration with the BSI and are available for any questions.
  5. Opportunity for Exchange: Use the shared forum to share your experiences and questions.

International panel discussion on effective cybersecurity at #OSXP2023

At the esteemed #OSXP2023 event, that took place in Paris, our participation in the “Cybersécurité et open source” roundtable brought forward critical discussions on improving cybersecurity in companies. The panel, including distinguished experts from the academic and governmental sectors, delved into strategies and points of vigilance essential for robust cybersecurity.

1. The Mindset of Security

Security by Design: A Leadership Commitment

  • The panel emphasized the importance of incorporating security from the initial stages of development. This approach requires a commitment from the top management to prioritize security in all business operations.

A Mentality Focused on Secure and Protected Solutions

  • Companies must cultivate a culture where security is an integral part of the thinking process, aiming to deliver solutions that are inherently secure and protected.

2. Implementing Key Processes

Adherence to Standards and Automation

  • The importance of adhering to established cybersecurity standards was underscored, with a recommendation to automate processes wherever possible to ensure consistency and efficiency.

No Deployment Without Security Compliance

  • It was strongly advised that no deployments or actions should proceed without meeting the necessary security requirements.

3. Resources: Empowering Teams and Enhancing Vigilance

Dedicated Security Teams and Training

  • Having specialized security teams and conducting regular training sessions were identified as crucial for maintaining a high level of security awareness and preparedness.

Vigilance as a Continuous Effort

  • Continuous vigilance was highlighted as a key resource, ensuring that security measures are always up-to-date and effective.

4. Essential Tools and Technologies

Mandatory Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

  • Implementing MFA as a compulsory measure we recommend enhancing account security significantly.

Vulnerability Scanners and Dependance Management

  • Utilizing vulnerability scanners and managing dependencies and configurations were suggested as vital tools. While platforms like GitHub Enterprise may be costly, they offer comprehensive solutions for these needs.

Conclusion: Education, Awareness, and the Use of Open-Source Tools

In conclusion, the panel at #OSXP2023, including our expert Corentin Bardin, a cyber security specialist and pen tester, highlighted the importance of continuous education and staying updated in the rapidly evolving cybersecurity landscape. They advocated for the use of open-source tools to bolster security measures.

The key takeaway from the discussion is the commitment to offering secure services. It’s not just about the tools and processes; it’s about the mindset and ongoing effort to stay vigilant and informed.

Update from 2023-12-06:

Last week, we reported on pro-Russian hacktivists scanning for vulnerable SharePoint Servers to exploit a critical vulnerability (CVE-2023-29357).

New findings suggest that the group, calling themselves “Zarya”, is undertaking various exploit-attempts, including directory traversal and targeting specific vulnerabilities in systems such as OpenWRT-Routers. The IP address, associated with these activities, has been observed in several different exploit attempts. In addition to simple reconnaissance, specific attacks on configuration files and Admin-APIs have been detected. This case re-emphasizes the importance of securing systems against such threats and shows, how unprotected or poorly configured systems can become targets of such attacks.

A critical vulnerability for Sharepoint (CVE-2023-29357), is being targeted by presumably pro-Russian attackers who are trying to exploit this vulnerability.

The Internet Storm Center has discovered corresponding activity on its honeypots. The severity for this vulnerability is critical (a score of 9.8 out of 10), and the attack complexity is very low, making this vulnerability particularly dangerous. Greenbone customers can benefit from the automatic detection of this vulnerability in our Enterprise Feed. Microsoft offers a security update since June 12, 2023, Microsoft customers who missed the update should install it now.

In the November 2023 commVT Intelligence Update, several critical vulnerabilities and security threats have come to light. Cisco’s Internetworking Operating System (IOS) XE Software Web User Interface (UI) was found to be vulnerable to two actively exploited critical vulnerabilities, allowing attackers to execute arbitrary code remotely. The curl command-line tool, widely used across various platforms, faced a serious vulnerability that could result in arbitrary code execution during SOCKS5 proxy handshakes. VMware is urging immediate updates for its vCenter Server due to a critical vulnerability potentially leading to remote code execution. Multiple vulnerabilities were found in versions of PHP 8; one is a particularly critical deserialization vulnerability in the PHAR extraction process. Additionally, SolarWinds Access Rights Manager (ARM) was found susceptible to multiple critical vulnerabilities, emphasizing the urgency to update to version 2023.2.1. Lastly, two F5 BIG-IP vulnerabilities were discovered to be actively exploited, with mitigation options available and outlined below.

Cisco IOS XE: Multiple Critical Vulnerabilities

Two actively exploited critical CVSS 10 vulnerabilities were discovered in Cisco’s Internetworking Operating System (IOS) XE Software Web User Interface (UI); CVE-2023-20198 and CVE-2023-20273. Combined, they allow an attacker to remotely execute arbitrary code as the system user and are estimated to have been used to exploit tens of thousands of vulnerable devices within the past few weeks. Greenbone has added detection for both the vulnerable product by version [1], and another aimed at detecting the BadCandy implanted configuration file [2]. Both are VTs included in Greenbone’s Enterprise vulnerability feed.

Cisco IOS was created in the 1980s and used as the embedded OS in the networking technology giant’s routers. Fast forward to 2023, IOS XE is a leading enterprise networking full-stack software solution that powers Cisco platforms for access, distribution, core, wireless, and WAN. IOS XE is Linux-based, and specially optimized for networking and IT infrastructure, routing, switching, network security, and management. Cisco devices are pervasive in global IT infrastructure and used by organizations of all sizes, including large-scale enterprises, government agencies, critical infrastructure, and educational institutions.

Here’s how the two recently disclosed CVEs work:

CVE-2023-20198 (CVSS 10 Critical): Allows a remote, unauthenticated attacker to create an account [T1136] on an affected system with privilege level 15 (aka privileged EXEC level) access [CWE-269]. Privilege level 15 is the highest level of access to Cisco IOS. The attacker can then use that account to gain control of the affected system.
CVE-2023-20273 (CVSS 7.2 High): A regular user logged into the IOS XE web UI, can inject commands [CWE-77] that are subsequently executed on the underlying system with the system (root) privileges. This vulnerability is caused by insufficient input validation [CWE-20]. CVE is also associated with a Lua-based web-shell [T1505.003] implant dubbed “BadCandy”. BadCandy consists of an Nginx configuration file named `cisco_service.conf` that establishes a URI path to interact with the web-shell implant but requires the webserver to be restarted.

Cisco has released software updates for mitigating both CVEs in IOS XE software releases, including versions 17.9, 17.6, 17.3, and 16.12 as well as available Software Maintenance Upgrades (SMUs) and IT security teams are strongly advised to urgently install them. Cisco has also released associated indicators of compromise (IoC), Snort rules for detecting active attacks, and a TAC Technical FAQs page. Disabling the web UI prevents exploitation of these vulnerabilities and may be suitable mitigation until affected devices can be upgraded. Publicly released proof of concept (PoC) code [1][2] and a Metasploit module further increase the urgency to apply the available security updates.

Critical Vulnerability In The Curl Tool

A widespread vulnerability has been discovered in the popular curl command line tool, libcurl, and the many software applications that leverage them across a wide number of platforms. Tracked as CVE-2023-38545 (CVSS 9.8 Critical), the flaw makes curl overflow a heap-based buffer [CWE-122]] in the SOCKS5 proxy handshake that can result in arbitrary code execution [T1203]. Greenbone’s community feed includes several NVTs [1] to detect many of the affected software products and will add additional detections for CVE-2023-38545 as more vulnerable products are identified.

CVE-2023-38545 is a client-side vulnerability exploitable when passing a hostname to the SOCKS5 proxy that exceeds the maximum length of 255 bytes. If supplied with an excessively long hostname, curl is supposed to use local name resolution and pass it on to the resolved address only. However, due to the CVE-2023-38545 flaw, curl may actually copy the overly long hostname to the target buffer instead of copying just the resolved address there. The target buffer, being a heap-based buffer, and the hostname coming from the URL results in the heap-based overflow.

While the severity of the vulnerability is considered high because it can be exploited remotely and has a high impact to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability (CIA) of the underlying system, the SOCKS5 proxy method is not the default connection mode and must be declared explicitly. Additionally, for an overflow to happen an attacker also needs to cause a slow enough SOCKS5 handshake to trigger the bug. All versions of curl are affected between v7.69.0 (released March 4th, 2020) until v8.3.0. The vulnerable code was patched in v8.4.0 commit 4a4b63daaa.

VMware vCenter Server: Multiple Vulnerabilities

CVE-2023-34048 is a critical severity vulnerability that could allow a malicious actor with network access to vCenter Server to cause an out-of-bounds write [CWE-787] potentially leading to remote code execution (RCE). The affected software includes VMware vCenter Server versions 6.5, 6.7, 7.0, and 8.0. VMWare has issued a security advisory to address both vulnerabilities which states that there are no known mitigations other than installing the provided updates. Both vulnerabilities can be detected by Greenbone’s enterprise vulnerability feed [1]. The vCenter Server patch also fixes CVE-2023-34056, a medium-severity information disclosure resulting from improper authorization [CWE-285].

Although there are no reports that CVE-2023-34048 is being actively exploited in the wild attackers have proven adept at swiftly converting threat intelligence into exploit code. Research by Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 threat research group shows that on average an exploit is published 37 days after a security patch is released.

Here are some brief details on both CVEs:

CVE-2023-34048 (CVSS 9.8 Critical): vCenter Server contains an out-of-bounds write [CWE-787] vulnerability in the implementation of the DCERPC protocol. A malicious actor with network access to vCenter Server may trigger this vulnerability to achieve remote code execution (RCE). The Distributed Computing Environment Remote Procedure Call (DCERPC) protocol facilitates remote procedure calls (RPC) in distributed computing environments, allowing applications to communicate and invoke functions across networked systems.
CVE-2023-34056 (CVSS 4.3 Medium): vCenter Server contains a partial information disclosure vulnerability. A malicious actor with non-administrative privileges to vCenter Server may leverage this issue to access unauthorized data.

Multiple Vulnerabilities Discovered In PHP 8

Several vulnerabilities were identified in PHP 8.0.X before 8.0.28, 8.1.X before 8.1.16 and 8.2.X before 8.2.3. Although the group of vulnerabilities does include one critical and two high-severity vulnerabilities, these require particular contexts to be present for exploitation; either deserializing PHP applications using PHAR or else using PHP’s core path resolution functions on untrusted input. Greenbone’s enterprise VT feed includes multiple detection tests for these vulnerabilities across multiple platforms.

Here are brief descriptions of the most severe recent PHP 8 vulnerabilities:

CVE-2023-3824 (CVSS 9.8 Critical): A PHAR file (short for PHP Archive) is a compressed packaging format in PHP, which is used to distribute and deploy complete PHP applications in a single archive file. While reading directory entries during the PHAR archive loading process, insufficient length checking may lead to a stack buffer overflow [CWE-121], potentially leading to memory corruption or remote code execution (RCE).
CVE-2023-0568 (CVSS 8.1 High): PHP’s core path resolution function allocates a buffer one byte too small. When resolving paths with lengths close to the system `MAXPATHLEN` setting, this may lead to the byte after the allocated buffer being overwritten with NULL value, which might lead to unauthorized data access or modification. PHP’s core path resolution is used for the `realpath()` and `dirname()` functions, when including other files using the `include()`, `include_once()`, `require()`, and `require_once()`, and during the process of resolving PHP’s “magic” constants” such as `__FILE__` and `__DIR__`.
CVE-2023-0567 (CVSS 6.2 Medium): PHP’s `password_verify()` function may accept some invalid Blowfish hashes as valid. If such an invalid hash ever ends up in the password database, it may lead to an application allowing any password for this entry as valid [CWE-287]. Notably, this vulnerability has been assigned different CVSS scores by NIST (CVSS 6.2 Medium) and the PHP group CNA (CVSS 7.7 High), the difference being that the PHP Group CNA considers CVE-2023-0567 a high risk to confidentiality while NIST does not. CNAs are a group of independent vendors, researchers, open source software developers, CERT, hosted service, and bug bounty organizations authorized by the CVE Program to assign CVE IDs and publish CVE records within their own specific scopes of coverage.

SolarWinds Access Rights Manager (ARM): Multiple Critical Vulnerabilities

SolarWinds Access Rights Manager (ARM) prior to version 2023.2.1 is vulnerable to 8 different exploits; one critical and two additional high-severity vulnerabilities (CVE-2023-35182, CVE-2023-35185, and CVE-2023-35187). These include authenticated and unauthenticated privilege escalation [CWE-269], directory traversal [CWE-22], and remote code execution (RCE) at the most privileged “SYSTEM” level. Greebone’s Enterprise vulnerability feed includes both local security check (LSC) [1] and remote HTTP detection [2].

SolarWinds ARM is an enterprise access control software for Windows Active Directory (AD) networks and other resources such as Windows File Servers, Microsoft Exchange services, and Microsoft SharePoint as well as virtualization environments, cloud services, NAS devices, and more. The widespread use of ARM and other SolarWinds software products means that its vulnerabilities have a high potential to impact a wide range of large organizations including critical infrastructure.

These and more recent vulnerabilities are disclosed in SolarWinds’ security advisories. Although no reports of active exploitation have been released, mitigation is highly recommended and available by installing SolarWinds ARM version 2023.2.1.

F5 BIG-IP: Unauthenticated RCE And Authenticated SQL Injection Vulnerabilities

Two RCE vulnerabilities in F5 BIG-IP, CVE-2023-46747 (CVSS 9.8 Critical) and CVE-2023-46748 (CVSS 8.8 High), have been observed by CISA to be actively exploited in the wild soon after PoC code was released for CVE-2023-46747. A Metasploit exploit module has also since been published. F5 BIG-IP is a family of hardware and software IT security products for ensuring that applications are always secure and perform the way they should. The platform is produced by F5 Networks, and it focuses on application services ranging from access and delivery to security. Greenbone has added detection for both CVEs [1][2].

CVE-2023-46747 is a remote authentication bypass [CWE-288] vulnerability while CVE-2023-46748 is a remote SQL injection vulnerability [CWE-89] that can only be exploited by an authenticated user. The affected products include the second minor release (X.1) for major versions 14-17 of BIG-IP Advanced Firewall Manager (AFM) and F5 Networks BIG-IP Application Security Manager (ASM).

If you are running an affected version you can eliminate this vulnerability by installing the vendor-provided HOTFIX updates [1][2]. The term “hotfix” implies that the patch can be applied to a system while it is running and operational, without the need for a shutdown or reboot. If updating is not an option, CVE-2023-46747 can be mitigated by downloading and running a bash script that adds or updates the `requiredSecret` attribute in the Tomcat configuration, which is used for authentication between Apache and Tomcat, and CVE-2023-46748 can be mitigated by restricting access to the Configuration utility to allow only trusted networks or devices, and ensuring only trusted user accounts exist thereby limiting the attack surface.

Our developers have provided vulnerability tests for two critical vulnerabilities in widely used enterprise software. Within a very short time, tests for CVE 2023-22518 und CVE 2023-46747 were integrated, and customers of Greenbone’s Enterprise Feed were protected.

Knowledge management tools Confluence and Jira from Australian vendor Atlassian have been hit by a serious security vulnerability, rated 9.8 out of 10 on the CERT scale. Since November 8, CVE 2023-22518 has been actively exploited by attackers gaining unauthorized access to company data, according to media reports.

According to the company, the “authentication flaw” affects all versions of Confluence Data Center and Server, but not the cloud version at Atlassian itself. For anyone else, including users of Jira, but especially all publicly accessible Confluence servers, there is a “high risk and need to take immediate action”, writes Atlassian.

We reacted quickly and provided our customers with appropriate tests before ransomware attacks could be successful. Customers of the Greenbone Enterprise Feed were warned and reminded of the patch via update.

Remote code execution: F5 BIG-IP allows request smuggling

Also at the end of October, security researchers from Praetorian Labs discovered a serious vulnerability (CVE-2023-46747) in the products of application security expert F5. The American company’s solutions are designed to protect large networks and software environments; the software, which was launched in 1997 as a load balancer, is primarily used in large enterprises.

However, according to the experts, attackers can remotely execute code on the BIG-IP servers by adding arbitrary system commands to the administration tools via manipulated URLs. Details can be found at Praetorian; patches are available, and a long list of BIG-IP products of versions 13, 14, 15, 16, and 17 are affected, both in hardware and software.

We reacted quickly and integrated tests into its vulnerability scanners on the same day, which test the BIG-IP installations at Greenbone Enterprise for vulnerable versions and, if necessary, point to the patches listed at F5.

Our vulnerability management products, the Greenbone Enterprise Appliances, offer the best protection.

Professional vulnerability management is an indispensable part of IT security. It enables the early detection of risks and provides valuable instructions for their elimination.
The Greenbone Enterprise Feed is updated daily to detect new vulnerabilities. We therefore recommend that you regularly update and scan all your systems. Please also read this article on IT security and the timeline of common attack vectors.

On November 2, Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser and Claudia Plattner, President of the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), presented the latest report on the state of IT security in Germany. Attacks with ransomware represent the largest and most frequent risk, but by far not the only one. As long as these attacks cannot be completely prevented, systems must become more secure in order to prevent or at least reduce damage.

In Germany, there are a number of initiatives to improve vulnerability management. These include the National IT Security Act (IT-SiG) and the BSI’s IT-Grundschutz Compendium. The “nationwide situation picture” rightly called for by BSI President Claudia Plattner can thus map the threat situation to the situation of vulnerable systems, thereby helping to warn in advance and respond quickly and effectively in the specific event of an attack.

“Digitization makes many things in our everyday lives easier. At the same time, it creates new areas of attack,” says Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser. We need to counter the growing risks posed by progressive networking with automated tools and processes. By using them, companies and organizations can better protect their IT systems and reduce the probability of a successful cyber attack.

Insecure systems make it easier for attackers to cause damage. Improving vulnerability management is therefore an important step toward increasing IT security in Germany.Insecure systems make it easier for attackers to wreak havoc. Improving vulnerability management is therefore an important step towards increasing IT security in Germany.

On October 10th, Citrix officially informed about the vulnerability in the Netscaler software, CVE-2023-4966, which is categorized as “critical” according to CVSS with a score of 9.4 and allows unauthorized access to corporate networks.

Greenbone has reacted to these vulnerabilities and implemented vulnerability tests at an early stage. Greenbone customers using the Citrix Netscaler Gateway, or ADC, are therefore on the safe side.

Nevertheless, the vulnerability is serious, which is why the BSI issues an urgent warning:

“The vulnerability allows attackers to disclose sensitive information without authentication. This allows authenticated sessions to be hijacked and multifactor authentication (MFA) or other means of authentication to be bypassed”.

The vulnerability, which has been actively exploited since the end of August, has been reported in numerous media outlets. Users should install the patches provided by Citrix as soon as possible. Citrix’s NetScaler ADC and NetScaler Gateway products, versions 13 and 14, and versions 12 and 13 of NetScaler ADC are affected. In addition to CVE-2023-4966, an advisory has been issued for CVE-2023-4967, which allows a Denial of Service (DoS).

Keep your IT networks secure!

Vulnerability management is a key tool in securing IT networks. It enables you to identify and eliminate potential risks in your systems. The Greenbone Enterprise Feed is updated daily to detect new vulnerabilities. Therefore, we recommend regular updates and scans for all your systems. Please also read this article about IT security and the timeline of common attack vectors.

The Greenbone Enterprise Appliances are offered as hardware, virtual appliances, or on premise (Greenbone Cloud Service). Greenbone works GDPR-compliant and offers an open-source solution. This means the best data protection compliance and is thus guaranteed to be completely free of backdoors.

Every year, IT and cyber security experts from public authorities, federal, state and local governments as well as the armed forces, police and intelligence services meet for the cyber security congress “Public IT Security” (PITS), initiated by Behoerdenspiegel. In 2023, the topic of vulnerabilities was once again at the top of the agenda.

This year, our CEO Dr. Jan-Oliver Wagner was invited as an expert to take part in the panel discussion “Putting a finger on a wound – managing or closing vulnerabilities?” Moderated by Katharina Sook Hee Koch from the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), the panel included representatives from the German Informatics Society (Nikolas Becker, Head of Policy & Science), the Bundestag Committee on Digital Affairs (MdB Catarina dos Santos-Wintz, CDU/CSU), the BSI itself (Dr. Dirk Häger, Head of Department Operative Cyber Security) for an exchange of views. Dirk Kunze from the North Rhine-Westphalia State Criminal Police Office (Head of the Cybercrime/Cyber Investigations Department in the Research and Investigation Centre) was present on behalf of the executive.

from left: Catarina dos Santos-Wintz, Dirk Kunze, Katharina Sook Hee Koch, Dr. Dirk Häger, Dr. Jan Oliver Wagner, Nikolas Becker (Photo: Greenbone AG)

Should vulnerabilities be closed? By all means!

The debate quickly centered on the question of whether and how (quickly) vulnerabilities in software should be closed and/or whether this would impair the work of investigative authorities. There was great unanimity among those present that the security of citizens had the highest priority. Keeping vulnerabilities open, even for political reasons, is hardly an option, both for cost reasons (exploits are expensive) and in risk assessment.

On the contrary, open-source software should be strengthened and more rewards (bug bounties) should be offered to experts who actively search for vulnerabilities. The BSI is also firmly convinced: “Basically, vulnerabilities must be closed.” (Häger). In criminal practice, the topic apparently plays a subordinate role anyway: the police, according to the LKA in North Rhine-Westphalia, know of only a few cases where it could have helped to keep vulnerabilities open. However, open vulnerabilities are still seen as a possible element for investigations. But of course, the decision of the politicians will be followed.

Dr. Jan-Oliver Wagner: “Vulnerability management is becoming increasingly important!”

Greenbone CEO Wagner warns that the number of open vulnerabilities will increase rather than decrease in the coming years. This is despite the fact that good progress is being made with regard to security in software development. However, the regulations and thus the pressure on companies by the legislator are also becoming stricter – not necessarily a bad thing, but it does create a need for action: “The upcoming Common Security Advisory Framework (CSAF 2.0) and the EU’s Cyber Resilience Act (CRA), will significantly increase the number of known vulnerabilities.”

The CSAF makes it easier for manufacturers to report vulnerabilities, while the Cyber Resilience Act also brings responsibility to the hoover manufacturer, i.e. to all parts of the economy. If you don’t want to lose track of this, you need vulnerability management like Greenbone’s, explains Wagner. “Upcoming regulations bring the issue of vulnerabilities into all parts of the economy, as now every manufacturer is responsible for the security of the devices and their software, including, for example, manufacturers for hoover robots or other smart household appliances – For the entire life of the product!”

Vulnerability management is risk management

Vulnerability management today is pure risk management for the professional user, as it is already practiced in insurance companies – decisions are made about which vulnerabilities need to be closed and which can or must wait (triage).

This is exactly where our vulnerability management products come in – as a hardware or virtual appliance or in the Greenbone Cloud Service. Greenbone develops an open source vulnerability management and allows users to detect vulnerabilities in their own network infrastructure within a few steps. Our products generate reports with concrete instructions for action that you can implement immediately.

We work strictly according GDPR Compliance and offer an open source solution. This means best data protection compliance and is thus guaranteed free of backdoors.

Earth quakes and cyber attacks have much in common. First: The forces are outside of our control and we can not prevent them to happen.

Second: We are not helplessly at the mercy. We can install early warning, minimize destructive effect and recover quickly. But only if we act BEFORE it happens.

Sure, earth quakes are about human live and cyber attacks are so far usually not. Yet I think this comparison is important in order to make it easier to understand the significance of cyber attacks the the options for action.

Of course there are also differences and the most striking one to me is the average frequency of occurence. This vivid direct comparison shows the parallels:

We have no technology to prevent them to happen, but… Earth quake Cyber Attack
We have prognosis models where they happen most likely Tectonic models Vulnerability intelligence

We have sensors that provide early warnings shortly before it happens

(sometimes they fail though with false positive and false negatives)

Seismographs Vulnerability scanning and threat intelligence
We have a scale to compare events about potential damage

Richter magnitude scale: Ranges from 1.0 to 9.9

  • Sometimes the effect is just shaking indoor objects and sometimes it is collapse of buildings

Severity Score: Ranges from 0.1 to 10.0

  • Sometimes you have some extra network load and sometimes a remote administrative exploit.
…you can do something to minimize negative impact:
Make you infrastructure stable against this type of force

Obligatory architecture designs

  • Overview and controlling of compliance

Obligatory security policies

  • detection and limitation of attack surface:
  • Vulnerability testing and remediation
  • Vulnerability management and compliance
Have trained teams ready to help recover quickly when it happens
  • Central command center and
  • distributed on-site medical and repair teams
  • Processes and and regular trainings thereof
  • Security operation center and distributed system administrator
  • Dev-ops or suppliers for operational support
  • Processes and and regular trainings thereof
Make all people aware on how to save their lives best when it happens
  • Understandable training materials and
  • regular awareness trainings
  • Understandable training materials and
  • regular awareness trainings