An exploit is designed to take advantage of certain vulnerabilities in software products, hardware devices, digital tools or electronic equipment. These exploits are software codes or command sequences that can cause computer networks, standalone digital devices, other software products and electronic tools to behave abnormally. Vulnerabilities and bugs in these digital products and electronic tools are mainly results of cross-platform compatibility issues or erroneous code among others.
On the other hand, an exploit can also be used to test and create solutions for problems with hardware devices and software products in efficiently working with widely used OS versions. For example, exploits that have been designed to test the exception handlers of the Structured Exception Handling (SAH) mechanism in Microsoft Windows platforms can allow developers to test and implement consistent compatibility support into their hardware and software products for certain Windows systems.
To do this, developers can simply execute the exploit in their target Windows platforms. In the event of an exception or error, they can then take note of the results provided by the “except” block in the exception handler. This allows them to revise or add new code to their hardware or software products so as to follow the rules provided by the exception handler. This means they can prevent their products from triggering errors or exceptions in their target Windows systems.
What is Exploit Development?
Simply put, exploit development is the process of creating an exploit. This practice can be performed for legitimate or illegitimate purposes, depending on the objectives of the exploit developer.
Criminal syndicates deploy exploit development campaigns to create hacking tools and malicious programs. These illegitimate products take advantage of known (or often undiscovered) vulnerabilities and bugs in widely used computer networking ports and protocols, standalone devices, electronic equipment, and digital products like operating systems and third party software programs. Many exploits from these criminal syndicates are designed to cause unintended behavior, take control or covertly penetrate networks, devices and software products.
On the other hand, legitimate exploit development aims to test and design these exploits for research and development objectives. The main purpose of many legitimate exploit developers is to discover unknown vulnerabilities and to uncover unreported bugs. After all, this is the first step in developing code that can fix bugs and patch vulnerabilities in a software product, computer network or electronic equipment.
What Are Vulnerability Databases?
Many data security companies and Web privacy organizations develop vulnerability databases. These are mostly online or offline repositories that contain bugs and vulnerabilities in a large variety of widely used software products, digital tools, and electronic equipment. Many of these groups share these repositories among themselves, to expedite the discovery of untested vulnerabilities in new or updated platforms, built-in digital tools, third party software products and hardware devices.
An example of this is the NVD, which stands for National Vulnerability Database. This is use by the American national government as a standards-based management platform for storing and updating impact metrics, checklists for security-related flaws in software and firmware components. Other types of vulnerabilities are also found in this repository, which mainly stores these pieces of information using SCAP (Security Content Automation Protocol). This repository allows the automated management of security measurement processes, compliance systems and for identifying vulnerabilities in certain products.
What Are Exploit Databases?
Exploit databases are on the other hand mostly file and source code repositories for newly discovered and existing exploits found in certain platforms and its built-in tools, third party software products, and electronic equipment. These databases allow developers to download, revise or reverse-engineer and execute these exploits in their own testing environments. This greatly helps them in the efficient development of solutions like bug fixes, security patches and updates to their products, device settings, and network configurations.
Most of these vulnerability and exploit repositories are online and offline servers with custom file or source code sharing and content management platforms. These are integrated with groupware development protocols, making it quicker and easier for developers to track changes and revisions to these exploits and vulnerability lists. Other databases are included as parts of an organization’s product development chain, making it quicker and easier to perform tests against possible vulnerabilities and bugs in their newly created products and updates.
An example of this is Offensive Security’s Exploits Database. This is a CVE-compliant repository of security documentation, vulnerable applications, shellcode, and exploits. Penetration testers, system security developers, network engineers and vulnerability researchers use this database for locating and testing different types of exploits. This includes Web application exploits, DoS (denial of service) exploits, POC (proof of concept) exploits, remote exploits, local and privilege exploits among others.
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Benefits of Vulnerability and Exploit Databases
- These repositories help ensure the constant discovery of new vulnerabilities, bugs, and exploits. Many of these databases allow developers to add newly discovered vulnerabilities and bugs in certain software products, network ports and protocols, digital tools and electronic devices to these vulnerability and exploit databases. This greatly contributes to the constant discovery of new problems in updated versions of widely used digital products and electronic equipment.
- These databases contribute to the rapid development and cost-effective distribution of bug fixes and vulnerability patches for a wide variety of software products, digital tools, network standards and electronic equipment. These allow developers to efficiently create solutions for newly discovered bugs, exploits, and vulnerabilities. This is especially useful in today’s economy as many products are introduced to the market each month, some of which are susceptible to vulnerability exploits.
- These vulnerability and exploit databases greatly contribute to more efficient testing, research and development objectives. Most of these repositories allow developers to download and test the exploits in these databases. Some vulnerability and exploit database providers also enable others to revise the code of these exploits to best match their research and development objectives or their specific testing purposes. Legitimate exploit developers can also upload newly re-coded or re-purposed exploits to these repositories, in case others will find these useful for their own objectives.
These vulnerability and exploit databases can help improve the cost-effectiveness of exploit development processes. Electronic product manufacturers, software development groups, and network administrators can greatly benefit from easily accessible repositories of exploits, bugs and vulnerabilities in online or offline servers with file or source code sharing functions and groupware content management platforms.
Vulnerability and exploit databases that are shared across multiple organizations and development groups can contribute to the constant discovery of new bugs and vulnerabilities in newly released or recently updated products. Enabling developers to cross-test and revise these exploits against existing bugs or potential vulnerabilities in their target platforms, software products, and hardware devices can help them improve their products much faster and better than simply relying on user-generated reports.
This can, in turn, expedite the creation and efficient distribution of better solutions for new and old bugs and vulnerabilities in widely used platforms, built-in digital tools, third party software products and electronic equipment. These vulnerability and exploit databases can also contribute to network data security standards and Web privacy protocols.
Illegal activities of cyber-criminal syndicates can also be minimized or slowed down considerably through the successful utility of these vulnerability and exploit repositories. Most criminal syndicates target known bugs and vulnerabilities to perform their illegal activities. They also perform their own R&D campaigns for discovering new bugs and vulnerabilities. This means the illegal operations of these criminal syndicates can only be thwarted significantly by deploying faster and better systems for constant discovery, expedited development and for the streamlined distribution of bug fixes and vulnerability patches.