The Interaction of Today’s Vulnerability Databases: CISA or CVSS

Posted by Marbenz Antonio on August 23, 2022

Six Vulnerabilities in a Popular GPS Device Threaten Millions of Users | Spiceworks 1

Large databases of known threats and vulnerabilities have usually been an important part of the cybersecurity field. These catalogs outline your areas of interest. They work well for prioritizing patches to boost security and lower the danger of a catastrophe. As a result, these databases must be trustworthy, and current, and apply the proper standards to evaluate vulnerabilities.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) revised and made public its list of identified vulnerabilities in November. Initiated initially for federal agencies but also helpful as recommendations for the commercial sector, the organization shared its own timeframes for patches. Because it employs slightly different criteria than the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS), another important tool for evaluating cyber vulnerabilities, the CISA list represents an important development in the cybersecurity field.

In what ways are the two systems different? Consider the advantages and disadvantages of switching from the CVSS to the CISA catalog, as well as what it all means for security-conscious enterprises.


The standards for patch prioritization in the CISA catalog and CVSS are one of their main distinctions. While the CVSS bases its recommendations on criticality, CISA bases them on exploitability.

Let’s analyze those two ideas:

  • Exploitability – identifying weaknesses and advising patches in light of actual exploits that have been used.
  • Criticality – utilizing the CVSS severity score to classify vulnerabilities and suggest patches.

What Is the CVSS Scoring System?

We must look at the CVSS’s scoring system in order to comprehend how it functions.

The CVSS is an open framework created to categorize software vulnerabilities based on their traits and the severity of the vulnerability. Base, Temporal, and Environmental metrics are the three categories used.

  • The Base Score assigns a number between 0 and 10 to the severity of a vulnerability based on its inherent characteristics, which are stable across time. In other words, this is probably how serious the vulnerability will be in the worst-case situation with no mitigation at all.
  • The Temporal Score is used to describe variables that evolve through time. That also implies that it must be regularly verified again. The Base Score is altered along with the temporal metric.
  • The computing environment in which the vulnerability resides affects the Environmental Score. Each organization is free to adjust this following its security measures. It has an impact on both the Temporal and Base Scores.

The computing environment in which the vulnerability resides affects the Environmental Score. Each organization is free to adjust this following its security measures. It has an impact on both the Temporal and Base Scores.

The Drawbacks of CVSS

The CVSS scoring system’s primary flaw is that it depends on the scorer’s knowledge of a vulnerability. Therefore, if you have a lot of knowledge about a particular vulnerability and how it applies to your systems, you can generate a very accurate and reliable CVSS result to help you make decisions about your security with confidence and take the appropriate steps at the correct time.

However, the CVSS score won’t be correct if you don’t know anything about that vulnerability.

What can businesses do in their place, then? Is the CISA catalog usually a preferable substitute?

Why Switch to CISA?

Since the CISA catalog is now available to the public, many businesses have switched over to it due to one significant benefit it has over the CVSS. In essence, the CISA only records Common Vulnerability Exposures (CVEs) when active exploits are being used to exploit them. It thus concentrates on the most important patches, those that an attacker is currently exploiting.

Here, the key distinction is that CISA prioritizes exploitability. What counts most is whether an attacker is genuinely exploiting a CVE, regardless of how serious the issue is according to the CVSS (criticality). No matter how serious, a potential risk is never more urgent than a known, ongoing problem.

The CISA catalog also deals with a problem that security teams face regularly. It makes it more acceptable to shut down mission-critical applications to upgrade and patch them.

It usually takes downtime to resolve a security issue, and even brief periods of downtime can have a big impact and be expensive. Patching vulnerabilities while maintaining business continuity is a delicate balance that security teams must maintain. However, it can be challenging to win support for a patch that isn’t viewed as urgently required. Any help is to display the CVE under CISA.

Finding Your Balance

Having said that, the CISA catalog isn’t flawless. Since there are so many undiscovered vulnerabilities in the wild, they should be given priority. Doesn’t a vulnerability have to be less serious just because it hasn’t been exploited yet? Not. It might even be the riskiest of all.

Security teams must once again strike the correct balance. Both the CVSS and the CISA catalog are useful tools for identifying vulnerabilities and prioritizing updates and security measures.

Don’t consider the CISA catalog to be a replacement for the CVSS in the end. Consider it as a helpful addition, instead. When evaluating threats, criticality and exploitability are both crucial characteristics to take into account. Additionally, security teams must still use their discretion and judgment when assessing vulnerabilities. You must choose where to concentrate your efforts and when to appropriately take a break.


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