From the January/February 2014 issue

k-Zero Day Safety: A Network Security Metric for Measuring the Risk of Unknown Vulnerabilities

By Lingyu Wang, Sushil Jajodia, Anoop Singhal, Pengsu Cheng, Steven Noel

Featured article thumbnail imageBy enabling a direct comparison of different security solutions with respect to their relative effectiveness, a network security metric may provide quantifiable evidences to assist security practitioners in securing computer networks. However, research on security metrics has been hindered by difficulties in handling zero-day attacks exploiting unknown vulnerabilities. In fact, the security risk of unknown vulnerabilities has been considered as something unmeasurable due to the less predictable nature of software flaws. This causes a major difficulty to security metrics, because a more secure configuration would be of little value if it were equally susceptible to zero-day attacks. In this paper, we propose a novel security metric, $(k)$-zero day safety, to address this issue. Instead of attempting to rank unknown vulnerabilities, our metric counts how many such vulnerabilities would be required for compromising network assets; a larger count implies more security because the likelihood of having more unknown vulnerabilities available, applicable, and exploitable all at the same time will be significantly lower.

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