The Impact of Common Vulnerabilities
and Exposures on Cybersecurity

Vulnerabilities and exposures expose your organization to attacks. Identify and patch them to protect your systems. A centralized list of vulnerabilities with standardized names makes it easier for security professionals to track threats and take action. Each CVE entry also gets a Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) score, which helps prioritize vulnerability fixes.

cybersecurity and malware attacks Infections

Vulnerabilities are mistakes in software, firmware, hardware, or service components that could give attackers unauthorized access and allow them to carry out a cyber attack. These vulnerabilities are cataloged and tracked with CVE (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures) — a standardized dictionary of vulnerabilities used as a common reference.

When malware infects a vulnerable system, the consequences can be catastrophic. It includes losing data and intellectual property and disseminating false or misleading content to influence beliefs and behaviors.

A software or operating system vulnerability can be discovered by a threat actor who then researches the issue, creates malicious code, and targets unpatched systems to exploit it. The exploitation may include gaining administrator privileges or infecting the victim with ransomware. Infections can also occur due to human factors, such as employees taking cybersecurity requirements too lightly or disabling security solutions. Managing Fortinet’s common vulnerabilities and exposures can help businesses understand the risk of vulnerabilities and take preventative actions. 

Denial of Service (DoS) attacks

A denial of service (DoS) attack is when an attacker floods the target with illegitimate network traffic, saturating bandwidth or draining system resources to a point where legitimate users cannot connect. Criminal perpetrators typically employ DoS attacks to generate extortion threats or as an act of hacktivism. Other times, they may simply seek revenge or blackmail for perceived injustices like animal testing or politics or to embarrass an organization for publicity purposes. Many DoS attacks are distributed, allowing attackers to use multiple attacking systems for a sustained assault. This type of attack can be harder to defend against than attacks from one system.

A cyber attacker can exploit Vulnerabilities in your security controls to deploy a malicious payload. At the same time, exposures are weaknesses in your system architecture that create an avenue of entry for attackers. The cybersecurity world uses the terms vulnerability and exposure interchangeably, but it’s important to understand the differences to manage your risk and mitigate cyberattacks effectively. The MITRE Corporation maintains an ongoing list of common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVE) that you can use to identify weaknesses in your system’s security controls.

Data theft

Vulnerabilities are flaws that online criminals might take advantage of to break into networks and steal data. Exposure results from a breach or leak of information to the outside world. It can include hackers discovering your passwords, email addresses and other personal details. It can imply that they gain access to your credit card information or financial data.

Data breaches can be caused by employees storing information on unsecured devices or in cloud applications, IT errors such as misconfigurations and security failures, or by physical theft of company assets. The cost of these data breaches can be high, including regulatory fines and lost business opportunities.

Malware infections

Malicious software, or malware, is a cyber threat used by hackers and hacktivists to disrupt your computer’s operations, steal personal or professional data, bypass access controls and more. Malware can take various forms, including computer viruses and worms, trojans and bots, spyware and ransomware. New malware strains use evasion and obfuscation techniques to avoid detection by antivirus programs or security scanners. Infections can be spread through USB drives, phishing emails disguised as legitimate files or even peer-to-peer file-sharing services. Other methods include exploding software, social engineering tactics and bogus websites.

Vulnerabilities are weaknesses in software or unprotected information ports that hackers can exploit. Exposures are mistakes that give attackers access to a system or network and lead to losing sensitive information, such as credit card numbers. The CVE lists and tracks vulnerabilities with standardized identifiers (CVE names or identifiers), making it easy for cybersecurity professionals to access information about specific threats across multiple sources. These standardized identifiers follow the format of a letter, the year it was added to the list and a four-digit number, for example, CVE-1999-0067.


From an individual hacker trying to sell your customer data on the black market to state-sponsored hackers targeting global financial institutions, cybercrime is a complex and varied threat. Malicious cyber actors routinely take advantage of various software and hardware flaws, even those that have been around for a while. Vendors, designers and developers must apply secure-by-default principles and tactics. Vulnerabilities are gaps in your IT infrastructure that allow cyber attackers to launch an attack on your organization. Exposures are events that impact your IT infrastructure, such as a vulnerability being spotted by hackers. Vulnerabilities and exposures can significantly impact your business, such as damaging customer relationships or losing valuable intellectual property. They can also lead to lawsuits, regulatory fines, and a drop in your share price. Exposure results from a breach or leak of information to the outside world. It can include hackers discovering your passwords, email addresses and other personal details. It could also mean they get a hold of your financial information or credit card numbers.