Security Experts:

Information Leakage Overtook XSS as Most Common Web Site Vulnerability in 2010, Report Says

WhiteHat Security, a Santa Clara, California based provider of Web site risk management solutions, today released its most recent Web site Security Statistics Report. According to the report, the average Web site fell into the "always" and "frequently" vulnerable categories and was exposed more than 270 days of the year.

To compile the report, WhiteHat Security examined the severity and duration of serious critical vulnerabilities from more than 3,000 websites from 400 organizations during the 2010 calendar year. WhiteHat found that during 2010, the average Web site it examined had 230 serious vulnerabilities. Serious Vulnerabilities are defined as vulnerabilities with a HIGH, CRITICAL, or URGENT severity as defined by PCI-DSS naming conventions, and which exploitation could lead to breach or data loss.

WhiteHat researchers claim that Information Leakage has (just barely, by a few tenths of a percent!) overtook Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) as the most common website vulnerability, with 64 percent of Web sites having at least one Information Leakage vulnerability in 2010. Information Leakage describes a vulnerability in which a website reveals sensitive data, such as technical details of the Web application, environment, or user-specific data.

"It's inevitable that websites will contain some faulty code -- especially in sites that are continually updated. Window of Exposure is a useful combination of the vulnerability prevalence, the time it takes to fix vulnerabilities, and the percentage of them that are remediated," said Jeremiah Grossman, founder and CTO of WhiteHat Security.

"Specifically for CIOs and security professionals, measuring window of exposure offers a look at the duration of risk their business and user data is exposed to by not having sufficient remediation processes in place."

By evaluating total window of exposure, organizations get a more complete analysis of the state of an individual Web site’s security, not only including the number of vulnerabilities, but also remediation rates and time-to-fix metrics.

According to the report, heavily regulated industries such as healthcare and financial services have the lowest rates, yet still 14 and 16 percent (respectively) of the sites had a serious vulnerability throughout the year. Social networking and retail have two of the largest windows of exposure, potentially reflecting the rate at which they update sites and introduce new code. The education industry has led with 78 percent of sites being vulnerable at least nine months of the year. Just a few recent university data breach incidents include incidents at Buena Vista University, Ohio State University, and The University of North Florida.

The full report is available here, registration is required.