Monday, September 03, 2012

what is a vulnerability

a vulnerability is generally considered to be a mistake or oversight that allows the vulnerable program or system to behave in an unintended and undesirable way in response to a particular input.

alternatively, in the sense that the inputs a program accepts represent a language, a vulnerability is a condition where unanticipated functionality is exposed and can be called like a programming API by 'programs' written in the input language in question (otherwise known as exploits).

the occasional exposure of unwanted functionality is unfortunately pretty much an inevitability because the complexity of modern systems makes it next to impossible to anticipate all possible outcomes for all possible inputs. only the most trivial of programs can be made proof against this problem.

although vulnerabilities generally do occur as a result of a mistake or failure to anticipate something, it's also possible for undesirable functionality to be exposed intentionally. these are sometimes considered to be a kind of backdoor. however the vulnerability came about, the exposure of that functionality is unintended and undesirable to someone - be they the software vendor or the software consumer.

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