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Kernel vulnerabilities: old or new?

Oct 28, 2010, 22:32 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jonathan Corbet)

"A quick search of the CVE database turns up 80 CVE numbers related to kernel vulnerabilities so far this year. At one recent conference or another, while talking with a prominent kernel developer, your editor confessed that he found that number to be discouragingly high. In an era where there is clearly an increasing level of commercial, criminal, and governmental interest in exploiting security holes, it would be hard to be doing enough to avoid the creation of vulnerabilities. But, your editor wondered, could we be doing more than we are? The response your editor got was, in essence, that the bulk of the holes being disclosed were ancient vulnerabilities which were being discovered by new static analysis tools. In other words, we are fixing security problems faster than we are creating them.

"That sort of claim requires verification; it is also amenable to being verified by a researcher with sufficient determination and pain resistance. Your editor decided to give it a try. "All" that would be required, after all, was to look at each vulnerability and figure out when it was introduced. How hard could that be?

"So, the basic process followed was this: pick a CVE entry, find the patch which closed the hole, then dig through the repository history and other resources in an attempt to figure out just when the problem was first introduced into the kernel. In some cases, the answer was relatively easy to find; others were sufficiently hard that your editor eventually gave up."

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