Randori named leader in Attack Surface Management in GigaOm ASM Radar Report

March 13, 2023

CVE vs CWE: A Guide To Mitre’s Cybersecurity Reference Tools

By: Randori Blog

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

The CVE and CWE have set the baseline for terms and definitions used industry-wide. To utilize all of Mitre’s cybersecurity resources easily, security professionals need to know the difference between CVE and CWE reference tools and their specific uses.

Why did Mitre Create the CVE and CWE?

The Mitre Corporation is the top organization contributing to the infosec industry, not just cybersecurity online informational tools. For several decades, Mitre has focused a significant portion of its resources on providing the world with cybersecurity information to combat the ever-growing threat of mal-intended cyberterrorists. 

The lack of a common language led them to create online reference tools offering two much-needed functions. First, the reference sites attempt to formalize the language used in the cybersecurity industry to facilitate better communication between cybersecurity professionals worldwide. The second function is to catalog specific software and hardware vulnerabilities as real-world exposure events and as disclosed possibilities. 

The cybersecurity industry began to adopt the CVE and CWE, including Mitre’s most notable online resources, Att&ck. Mitre Att&ck’s framework maps real-world cyberattacks step-by-step to inform security teams of common terrorist strategies.

Know the difference between CVE vs CWE: Why is it important?

Using the CVE and CWE is vital to understanding the language of the cybersecurity world. Mitre’s Att&ck framework, the National Vulnerability Database (NID), and other privately owned cybersecurity tools are moving to use the terms and events cataloged on the CVE or CWE. The two catalogs fulfill two very different functions, but understanding the difference can be confusing.

What is CVE?

Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures, or CVE, is a public glossary or catalog of cybersecurity threats and events in specific digital products. The CVE catalogs two different common cybersecurity events; Vulnerabilities and Exposures. Understanding the difference between the two and how Mitre defines them is crucial when utilizing this reference tool . 

The CVE defines a vulnerability or exposure as a “flaw in a software, firmware, hardware, or service component resulting from a weakness” that cyberterrorists can use to access confidential or proprietary data. These flaws exist in digital assets launched or active and disclosed by the asset’s manufacturer. In simpler terms, these are known instances of vulnerability in specific products that could or have resulted in data breaches.

CVE Example

For example, CVE-2023-23379 catalogs a cybersecurity vulnerability in “Microsoft’s Defender of IoT Elevation of Privilege.” The CVE entry lists reference links to Microsoft’s disclosures of the vulnerability, the recorded date, and a link to the event in the National Vulnerability Database (NVD). The entry also links research, solutions, and common weaknesses associated with this vulnerability. This entry sets a language baseline for other cybersecurity professionals and online tools. If this event, CVE-2023-23379, needs to be referenced or discussed, the CVE entry provides a hub of information about the vulnerability. Furthermore, cybersecurity professionals can use the entry as a jumping-off point for safeguarding this digital asset.

What is CWE?

The Common Weakness Enumeration, or CWE, is a catalog or glossary of different types of weaknesses in software, hardware, firmware, or service components. Whereas the CVE logs real-world instances of vulnerabilities and exposures in specific products, the CWE lists and defines weaknesses commonly seen in digital products. The CWE does not refer to one particular example but provides definitions for widely seen defects.  

More so than the CVE, the CWE’s focus is to provide a common language to communicate about cybersecurity. It also categorizes weaknesses by type and occurrence, which helps characterize the weaknesses. The CWE uses all of these minute details to create cybersecurity solutions.

CWE Example

An example of a CWE entry is CWE-327, titled “Use of a Broken or Risky Cryptographic Algorithm.” Each CWE entry describes this common weakness, where it occurs, how often, and how risky it is. The entry details relationships with other flaws and provides CVE links for specific vulnerabilities caused by the CW-327 weakness.

The CVE and CWE are unique but connected tools

Knowing the difference between the CVE vs CWE allows you to understand their interconnectivity and how to utilize each reference tool. The lines between the two resources get blurry if you don’t understand their connection.

Vulnerabilities and Weaknesses Aren’t Interchangeable Terms

The difference between a vulnerability or exposure and a weakness can seem like semantics, but it’s important to note that Mitre defines them as separate terms and not interchangeable synonyms. Understanding the difference between a vulnerability and a weakness is crucial in distinguishing each catalog’s specific use. 

The CWE defines weakness as “a condition in a software, firmware, hardware, or service component that, under certain circumstances, could contribute to the introduction of vulnerabilities.” In other words, a “weakness” commonly found in software can create the potential for a “vulnerability” in specific software to exist.

CVE Entries Help Define CWE Entries

Due to the nature of Mitre’s definitions of “Vulnerabilities” and “Weaknesses,” the two reference tools positively affect one another. The more vulnerabilities in CVE, the better the definition of weaknesses in CWE, highlighting the importance of knowing the difference between the two sites. The circular nature of their categorization reinforces each other’s validity and therefore strengthens the cybersecurity industry.

CVE and CWE Make The Cybersecurity Industry Stronger

The CVE and CWE are essential reference tools to the cybersecurity industry, and knowing the difference between the two is vital to using Mitre Corporation’s other tools, like the Att&ck framework. Together with professional I.T. and attack surface management teams, the digital world is becoming a safer place. Are you concerned about the potential vulnerabilities in your system? Learn how Randori can help you control your attack surface with our free surface review.

Gain an Attacker's Perspective

Uncover your true attack surface with the only ASM platform built by attackers. Stay one step ahead of cyber-criminals, hacktivists and nation-state attackers, by seeing your perimeter as they see it.