Cyber Security

OVAL (Open Vulnerability Assessment Language)

Open Vulnerability and Assessment Language (OVAL) is an international, information security, community standard to promote open and publicly available security content, and to standardize the transfer of this information across the entire spectrum of security tools and services. OVAL includes a language used to encode system details, and an assortment of content repositories held throughout the community. The language standardizes the three main steps of the assessment process:

  • representing configuration information of systems for testing;
  • analyzing the system for the presence of the specified machine state (vulnerability, configuration, patch state, etc.);
  • reporting the results of this assessment.

The repositories are collections of publicly available and open content that utilize the language.

The OVAL community has developed three schemas written in Extensible Markup Language (XML) to serve as the framework and vocabulary of the OVAL Language. These schemas correspond to the three steps of the assessment process: an OVAL System Characteristics schema for representing system information, an OVAL Definition schema for expressing a specific machine state, and an OVAL Results schema for reporting the results of an assessment.

Content written in the OVAL Language is located in one of the many repositories found within the community. One such repository, known as the OVAL Repository, is hosted by The MITRE Corporation. It is the central meeting place for the OVAL Community to discuss, analyze, store, and disseminate OVAL Definitions. Each definition in the OVAL Repository determines whether a specified software vulnerability, configuration issue, program, or patch is present on a system.

The information security community contributes to the development of OVAL by participating in the creation of the OVAL Language on the OVAL Developers Forum and by writing definitions for the OVAL Repository through the OVAL Community Forum. An OVAL Board consisting of representatives from a broad spectrum of industry, academia, and government organizations from around the world oversees and approves the OVAL Language and monitors the posting of the definitions hosted on the OVAL Web site. This means that the OVAL, which is funded by US-CERT at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for the benefit of the community, reflects the insights and combined expertise of the broadest possible collection of security and system administration professionals worldwide.

OVAL is used by the Security Content Automation Protocol (SCAP).

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