Making Sense of Vulnerabilities and Software Weaknesses with CVE, CWE, CVSS and CWSS

In the world of infosec, abbreviations and acronyms are king. But what do they all mean? In this blog post, we'll go over the differences between some commonly confused acronyms – namely, CVE, CWE, CVSS and CWSS. It is easy to see where the confusion comes in, especially because these terms are all actually somewhat related. These are all terms that relate back to system vulnerabilities and software weaknesses – and if you keep tabs on patch management, you've probably seen them before.

CVE and CWE are both acronyms that are used by MITRE, a government-funded organization that creates standards for the infosec industry. But there are some key differences between them.

What's the difference between CVE and CWE?

CVE stands for Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures. When you see a CVE, it refers to a specific instance of a vulnerability within a product or system. For example, BlueKeep is CVE-2019-0708.

On the other hand, CWE stands for Common Weakness Enumeration. CWE refers to the types of software weaknesses, rather than specific instances of vulnerabilities within products or systems.

Essentially, CWE is a “dictionary” of software vulnerabilities, while CVE is a list of known instances of vulnerability for specific products or systems.

The National Vulnerability Database, or NVD, actually uses CWEs to score CVEs.

From NVD:

NVD analysts score CVEs using CWEs from different levels of the hierarchical structure. This cross section of CWEs allows analysts to score CVEs at both a fine and coarse granularity, which is necessary due to the varying levels of specificity possessed by different CVEs.

So, CVE and CWE are related – but are most definitely very different.


These are two more related acronyms. CVSS stands for Common Vulnerability Scoring System. As you might have guessed, CVSS is used to numerically score the severity of a vulnerability. This value can then be used to form a qualitative measurement (such as “moderate” or “critical”).

It only follows suit that CWSS stands for Common Weakness Scoring System, which ranks the severity of software weaknesses.

CVSS and CWSS are two distinctly different things, but can be used together when assessing a security threat.

Vulnerabilities and software weaknesses are issues that should be rectified as soon as possible. Automated patch management solutions can help organizations identify and address threats require immediate attention, and much more. For tech professionals, just keeping track of all the acronyms can be hard enough.

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