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A Case Study on Software Vulnerability Coordination

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Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-257
Number of pages19
JournalInformation and Software Technology
Volume103
Early online date19 Jun 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Abstract

Context: Coordination is a fundamental tenet of software engineering. Coordination is required also for identifying discovered and disclosed software vulnerabilities with Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs). Motivated by recent practical challenges, this paper examines the coordination of CVEs for open source projects through a public mailing list.

Objective: The paper observes the historical time delays between the assignment of CVEs on a mailing list and the later appearance of these in the National Vulnerability Database (NVD). Drawing from research on software engineering coordination, software vulnerabilities, and bug tracking, the delays are modeled through three dimensions: social networks and communication practices, tracking infrastructures, and the technical characteristics of the CVEs coordinated.

Method: Given a period between 2008 and 2016, a sample of over five thousand CVEs is used to model the delays with nearly fifty explanatory metrics. Regression analysis is used for the modeling.

Results: The results show that the CVE coordination delays are affected by different abstractions for noise and prerequisite constraints. These abstractions convey effects from the social network and infrastructure dimensions. Particularly strong effect sizes are observed for annual and monthly control metrics, a control metric for weekends, the degrees of the nodes in the CVE coordination networks, and the number of references given in NVD for the CVEs archived. Smaller but visible effects are present for metrics measuring the entropy of the emails exchanged, traces to bug tracking systems, and other related aspects. The empirical signals are weaker for the technical characteristics.

Conclusion: Software vulnerability and CVE coordination exhibit all typical traits of software engineering coordination in general. The coordination perspective elaborated and the case studied open new avenues for further empirical inquiries as well as practical improvements for the contemporary CVE coordination.

Publication forum classification

Field of science, Statistics Finland