VulnerableCode Overview

VulnerableCode provides an open database of software packages that are affected by known security vulnerabilities aka “vulnerable packages”.

VulnerableCode is also a free and open source software (FOSS) project that provides the tools to build this open database. The tools handle collecting, aggregating and correlating these vulnerabilities and relating them to a correct package version. Our project also supports a public cloud instance of this database -

What can I do with VulnerableCode?

For security researchers and software developers, VulnerableCode offers a web UI and a JSON API to efficiently find if the FOSS packages and dependencies that you use are affected by known vulnerabilities and to determine whether a later package version fixes those vulnerabilities.

  • With the web UI, you can search by package using Package URLs or search by vulnerability, e.g., by CVE. From there you can navigate to the package vulnerabilities and to the vulnerable packages.

  • With the JSON API, you can perform package queries using Package URLs (purl) or query by vulnerability id (“VCID”). You can also query by CPEs and other vulnerability aliases. The API provides paginated index and detail endpoints and includes indexes of vulnerable CPEs and vulnerable Package URLs.

You can install VulnerableCode locally or use the provided publicly hosted instance, or host your own installation. You can contact the VulnerableCode team for special needs including commercial support.

Why VulnerableCode?

VulnerableCode provides open correlated data and will support curated data. Our approach is to prioritize upstream data sources and to merge multiple vulnerability data sources after comparison and correlation. The vulnerability data is keyed by Package URL ensuring quick and accurate lookup with minimal friction. We continuously validate and refine the collected data for quality, accuracy and consistency using “improver” jobs. An example is an improver that can validate that a package version reported as vulnerable actually exists (some do not exist). Another example is to re-evaluate vulnerable version ranges based on the latest releases of a package.

The benefit of our approach is that we will eventually provide better, more accurate vulnerability data for packages reported in an SBOM. This should contribute to more efficient vulnerability management with less noise from false positives.

Another key reason why we created VulnerableCode is that existing vulnerability database solutions are primarily commercial or proprietary. This does not make sense because the bulk of the vulnerability data is about FOSS.

The National Vulnerability Database, which is a primary centralized data source for known vulnerabilities, is not particularly well suited to address FOSS security issues because:

  1. It predates the explosion of FOSS software usage

  2. Its data format reflects a commercial vendor-centric point of view in part due to the usage of CPEs to map vulnerabilities to existing packages.

  3. CPEs were not designed to map FOSS to vulnerabilities owing to their vendor-product centric semantics. This makes it really hard to answer the fundamental questions: “Is package foo vulnerable?” and “Is package foo vulnerable to vulnerability bar?”

How does it work?

VulnerableCode independently aggregates many software vulnerability data sources and supports data re-creation in a decentralized fashion. These data sources (see complete list here) include security advisories published by Linux and BSD distributions, application software package managers and package repositories, FOSS projects, GitHub and more. Thanks to this approach, the data is focused on specific ecosystems and aggregated in a single database that enables querying a richer graph of relations between multiple representations of a package. Being specific increases the accuracy and validity of the data as the same version of an upstream package across different ecosystems may or may not be subject to the same vulnerability.

In VulnerableCode, packages are identified using Package URL (purl) as the primary identifier instead of a CPE. This makes answers to questions such as “Is package foo vulnerable to vulnerability bar?” more accurate and easier to interpret.

The primary access to VulnerableCode data is through a REST API, but there is also a Web UI for searching and browsing vulnerabilities by package or by vulnerability. For the initial releases both access modes are read-only, but our longer-term goal is to enable community curation of the data including addition of new packages and vulnerabilities, and reviewing and updating their relationships.

We also plan to mine for vulnerabilities that have not received any exposure due to reasons such as the complicated procedure to obtain a CVE ID or not being able to classify a bug as a vulnerability.

How can I contribute to VulnerableCode?

Please get in touch on our Gitter channel. You can review or get the code and report issues at our GitHub repo.