Vulnerabilities are Not Threats




Symantec recently published their 2011 Threat report.  I always find this an interesting read and a worthwhile read.  But I have a pet peeve with a common mis-classification of vulnerabilities as threats.  These two items are distinct, but related items: threats will often exploit vulnerabilities to achieve their goal.  While related, vulnerabilities are not threats and mixing the two confuses the conversation.

Symantec is not oblivious to this fact as they carefully keep this distinction in mind when writing this report.  In sections referring to vulnerabilities, they do not mix the term vulnerability and threat.  But the report title is “Internet Security Threat Report”. Using the number of vulnerabilities discovered in 2011 as a metric to indicate the Threat trend is not appropriate.

There is still a place to discuss vulnerabilities in this report; in particular what types of vulnerabilities are being targeted by threats is a very interesting analysis I would like to see more of.  But remove the vulnerability count off the headline graphics and don’t use it as a measure of threat.  Vulnerabilities are not threats and they are not risk.  Vulnerabilities are weaknesses potentially exploited by threats.

About Jody Brazil

As Founder and CEO of FireMon, Jody Brazil is a seasoned entrepreneur with more than two decades of executive management experience and deep domain expertise in all aspects of networking, including network security design, network security assessment, and security product implementation. Before joining FireMon in 2004, Brazil spent eight years at FishNet Security, serving as Chief Technology Officer, where he was responsible for providing direction for solutions to their customers. Previously, he was president and founder of Beta Technologies, a Network Services and Internet Application Development company. A few of Brazil’s major accomplishments include his implementation of the first load balanced deployment of Check Point firewall software in 1997. A year later he engineered the security solution that allowed, for the first time, the transfer of criminal history data over the Internet as approved by the FBI. Brazil then released the first ever graphical firewall policy change view in 2001 and the first ever firewall rule usage analysis application in 2004.

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