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Proportion of Exploited Vulnerabilities Continues to Drop

While the number of identified vulnerabilities has increased significantly over the past years, the percentage of flaws that are exploitable or have actually been exploited has been dropping, according to vulnerability management company Kenna Security.

While the number of identified vulnerabilities has increased significantly over the past years, the percentage of flaws that are exploitable or have actually been exploited has been dropping, according to vulnerability management company Kenna Security.

The number of vulnerabilities that received a CVE identifier in 2011 was roughly 4,100, but the number has exceeded 10,000 every year since 2016 — there were 14,000 in 2017, 16,000 in 2018 and 12,000 in 2019. The number of CVEs assigned so far this year has exceeded 17,000.

Kenna Security has conducted an analysis of more than 100,000 vulnerabilities disclosed since 2011 and noticed that the number of exploitable and exploited flaws has been on a downwards trend over the past years.

In 2017, 9.1% of vulnerabilities were exploitable and 0.7% of them were actually exploited. In 2020, only 2.7% of security bugs appear to be exploitable and only roughly 0.4% of them have actually been exploited in attacks.

Exploited and exploitable vulnerabilities

According to Kenna, in terms of severity, 8.6% of the critical vulnerabilities disclosed this year are exploitable and 2.1% have been exploited in attacks. One percent and 0.002% of the high-severity flaws are exploitable and have been exploited, respectively.

“Although the known universe of vulnerabilities is exploding, an increasingly small number of those vulnerabilities result in actual breaches. Focusing your remediation efforts on high-impact mitigations has never been more important,” Kenna Security told organizations.

While a majority of high- and critical-severity vulnerabilities still impact applications, the company says OS-level flaws account for an increasing proportion of serious flaws.

*updated the number of CVEs assigned in the past years

Related: Microsoft Explains How It Processes Vulnerability Reports

Related: IoT Security Foundation Launches Vulnerability Reporting Platform

Related: Microsoft Introduces Device Vulnerability Report in Defender for Endpoint

Related: NSA Lists 25 Vulnerabilities Currently Targeted by Chinese State-Sponsored Hackers

Written By

Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.

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