Attack potential in impact and complexity

L. Allodi, F. Massacci

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Vulnerability exploitation is reportedly one of the main attack vectors against computer systems. Yet, most vulnerabilities remain unexploited by attackers. It is therefore of central importance to identify vulnerabilities that carry a high 'potential for attack'. In this paper we rely on Symantec data on real attacks detected in the wild to identify a trade-off in the Impact and Complexity of a vulnerability, in terms of attacks that it generates; exploiting this effect, we devise a readily computable estimator of the vulnerability's Attack Potential that reliably estimates the expected volume of attacks against the vulnerability. We evaluate our estimator performance against standard patching policies by measuring foiled attacks and demanded workload expressed as the number of vulnerabilities entailed to patch. We show that our estimator significantly improves over standard patching policies by ruling out low-risk vulnerabilities, while maintaining invariant levels of coverage against attacks in the wild. Our estimator can be used as a first aid for vulnerability prioritisation to focus assessment efforts on high-potential vulnerabilities.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Conference on Availability, Reliability and Security, ARES 2017, 29 August - 1 September 2017, Reggio Calabria, Italy
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery, Inc
ISBN (Electronic)9781450352574
ISBN (Print)978-1-4503-5257-4
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2017
EventInternational Conference on Availability, Reliability and Security,ARES2017, 29 August- 1st September 2017 - Reggio Calabria, Italy
Duration: 29 Aug 20171 Sept 2017


ConferenceInternational Conference on Availability, Reliability and Security,ARES2017, 29 August- 1st September 2017
Abbreviated titleARES2017
CityReggio Calabria
Internet address


  • Attack potential
  • CVSS
  • Exploitation
  • Prioritization
  • Vulnerability


Dive into the research topics of 'Attack potential in impact and complexity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this