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Empowering Developers Through Collaborative Vulnerability Management: Insights From VulnCon 2024

CVE and FIRST empower developers to create secure software through collaboration, standardization, and best practices in vulnerability management.

As software vulnerabilities continue to pose critical risks to organizations worldwide, developers, engineers, and architects must stay informed about the latest tools, best practices, and community initiatives to improve security. 

At the recent CVE/FIRST VulnCon 2024 conference, I had the opportunity to sit down with Pete Allor, Senior Director of Product Security at Red Hat and a member of the CVE Board, to discuss the vital roles played by the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) program and the Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams (FIRST) in fostering collaboration and innovation in vulnerability management.

The Power of Open Source and Upstream Contributions

Red Hat, a leader in open source and Linux, has long recognized the importance of community collaboration in driving security improvements. Allor emphasized that Red Hat's open-source culture is central to its product security and vulnerability management approach. 

"Everything is open source," he explained. "It's about exchanging code and figuring out how to improve security. We contribute upstream, working with the government, enterprise clients, and others to frame problems and develop solutions—documentation, programs, standards, or code—that help everyone."

This commitment to upstream contributions and open collaboration enables Red Hat to work closely with its engineering teams, assure the public that the right things are being done, and quickly announce and remediate vulnerabilities. By engaging with the broader open-source community, Red Hat helps drive industry-wide improvements in security practices.

CVE: A Common Language for Vulnerability Management

As a member of the CVE Board, Allor provided valuable insights into the critical role played by the CVE program in standardizing the identification and tracking of vulnerabilities. Established 25 years ago, CVE emerged from a need to create a common language for discussing and addressing security issues.

"The purpose, back in the day, was to figure out how to commonly know what one organization was calling a problem versus another," Allor explained. "It was about creating a way to record and communicate about vulnerabilities reliably."

Over the years, the CVE program has evolved to keep pace with the changing landscape of vulnerabilities and the needs of the security community. Today, it is an essential resource for developers, helping ensure that vulnerabilities are identified, tracked, and addressed consistently and efficiently.

FIRST: Facilitating Global Collaboration in Incident Response

In addition to his role on the CVE Board, Allor previously served on the Board of Directors for FIRST, an international confederation of incident response teams. He shared valuable insights into FIRST's mission and its role in facilitating collaboration among security professionals worldwide.

"FIRST is all about helping incident response teams work together to solve common problems, whether dealing with malware, attackers, or other issues," Allor explained. "It's about educating people and helping them do the right thing for their company or organization."

One key way FIRST promotes collaboration is through regular communication and information sharing. Members meet every three weeks to discuss emerging threats, share best practices, and learn from one another. This steady flow of communication helps incident responders stay ahead of the curve and respond more effectively to security incidents.

Allor also highlighted the importance of FIRST in fostering the next generation of security leaders. "For younger professionals, FIRST provides a forum where they can learn, bring forward new ideas, and figure out how to help others," he said. "It's all about building the future of the incident response community."

Coordinated Vulnerability Disclosure: Best Practices for Researchers and Vendors

Coordinated vulnerability disclosure has been a hot topic in the security community, and Allor shared his perspectives on best practices for researchers, vendors, and end-users. Drawing on his experience at X-Force, he emphasized the importance of disclosing vulnerabilities in a way that doesn't harm others and gives people a chance to protect themselves.

"The key is understanding that vulnerability disclosure has different phases," Allor explained. "There's the notification part, which isn't always well understood, and there's a need to work with certain aspects of the ecosystem. The standards and working groups haven't always coordinated these different aspects."

Allor recommends that researchers and vendors familiarize themselves with guidelines that provide a framework for multi-party disclosure. By working together and following established best practices, the security community can ensure that vulnerabilities are disclosed and mitigated responsibly and effectively.

Securing the Software Supply Chain

With high-profile breaches like SolarWinds making headlines, the security of the software supply chain has come under increased scrutiny. As a platform vendor, Red Hat is working diligently to secure its supply chain and help customers manage third-party risks.

Allor highlighted the importance of software bills of materials (SBOMs) and ensuring the integrity of software artifacts throughout the development pipeline. "It's about understanding what goes into a manifest, how to cultivate that into an SBOM, and making sure all the checks and balances are in place," he said.

Red Hat's approach involves close collaboration with upstream projects and the open-source community to identify and address vulnerabilities quickly. By contributing fixes upstream and supporting enterprise customers throughout the software lifecycle, Red Hat helps ensure the security and reliability of its platforms.

Preparing for the Future of Open Source Security

Looking ahead, Allor sees several key trends and technologies that will shape the future of open-source security. From the growing adoption of SBOMs to the potential of artificial intelligence and machine learning, he emphasized the need for ongoing innovation and collaboration.

"We're looking at how SBOMs can inform and simplify vulnerability management, how to provide better assurance to customers, and how AI can be effectively applied to coding and security," Allor said. "The key is ensuring we're working with good data and adapting to new challenges."

As the open source ecosystem evolves, Allor stressed the importance of staying engaged with the community, contributing to projects and initiatives like CVE and FIRST, and prioritizing security throughout the software development lifecycle. By working together and leveraging the community's collective knowledge and expertise, developers, engineers, and architects can help build a more secure future for all.


The insights shared by Pete Allor at CVE/FIRST VulnCon 2024 underscore the critical role that collaborative initiatives like CVE and FIRST play in advancing vulnerability management and incident response. 

By providing a common language for identifying and tracking vulnerabilities, facilitating global collaboration among security professionals, and promoting best practices for coordinated disclosure, these programs empower developers to create more secure software and respond more effectively to emerging threats.

As the open source ecosystem grows and evolves, developers, engineers, and architects must stay engaged with the community, contribute to upstream projects, and prioritize security throughout the software development lifecycle. By working together and leveraging the resources and expertise provided by organizations like CVE and FIRST, we can build a more secure and resilient future for all.


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