3 Causes of Software Vulnerabilities and How to Reduce Your Risk

Debra Hopper
January 26, 2023
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As long as applications exist, there will be vulnerabilities, and as long as there are vulnerabilities, there will be exploits. In the six-year span from 2015 to 2021, newly reported zero-day exploits rose from from one-per-week to one-per-day, and they are only becoming more prevalent. 

This doesn’t mean that there is nothing you can do to protect yourself from vulnerabilities. Protecting yourself with a security testing solution goes a long way to minimize your risk of a vulnerability being exploited.

What Causes Software Vulnerabilities?

In order to reduce your risk from exploitable vulnerabilities, it is important to understand what causes them and how they can be fixed. Vulnerabilities can be introduced in a variety of ways, including:


1. Developer Mistakes 

Coding errors are one way that a software vulnerability can be introduced. Developers are under intense pressure to ship new features quickly, and it can be difficult to prioritize security. Developer errors, or defects, are common, but not every defect is a vulnerability. A defect is considered to be a vulnerability if it can be exploited.


2. Misconfigurations

Misconfiguration vulnerabilities are different from flaws in the code. They are caused by insecure arrangements in a system’s security settings. For example, software could ship with default user accounts or a known set of standard files. When the default configuration isn’t changed, it can leave the door open for hackers. 

Software also often ships with vulnerable settings enabled like remote administration options. Leaving these default settings on allows attackers to gain unauthorized access to an application. Changing the initial settings of your software can minimize the chance of an attack.


3. Software Supply Chain

Today, 90% of companies use open source software. It’s much easier for developers to pull third-party, pre-built code to deliver a certain function rather than try to write everything from scratch. However, open source software doesn’t currently have any maintenance regulations or quality checks to ensure that it is vulnerability free, making the chance of inheriting a security risk high. This risk is compounded by the fact that developers may opt to use older component versions that have worked for them in the past rather than updated versions that have had vulnerabilities fixed. 

Since open source is so widely used, it is also a popular target for hackers, making it even more risky. While it might seem to be a poor security practice to use open source code, it offers a huge advantage in speed and efficiency. As long as your software is tested for vulnerabilities before deploying, there is no reason to avoid using open source.


How to Prevent Software Vulnerabilities

To protect your company from exploitable vulnerabilities, you’ll need an advanced form of security testing that grows with you. There are many different types of application security solutions. For an overview, see our Buyer’s Guide to Mayhem and Comprehensive Application Security to learn how different solutions excel and where gaps are left behind. 

We recommend Mayhem to protect your company against exploitable vulnerabilities. Mayhem uses machine learning to create and run thousands of tests to identify vulnerabilities quickly and efficiently, and help developers fix them faster, before they can be exploited by attackers.

Development Speed or Code Security. Why Not Both?

Mayhem is an award-winning AI that autonomously finds new exploitable bugs and improves your test suites.

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