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Security vendors joined together today to back a standard for describing application security vulnerabilities.

The new Application Vulnerability Description Language (AVDL), to be managed through the OASIS consortium, provides a "XML standard to define, categorize and classify application vulnerabilities in a standardized fashion".

The language provides a way for vulnerability scanners, for example, to exchange data with application security software. OASIS has established a Technical Committee to develop the standard.

The laudable aim of the standard is to reduce security management headaches, but we have our doubts if will it work?

First, the security industry is notoriously fragmented. Unlike other market segments, there are scores of vendors selling competitive and incompatible products. Standards are very much the exception rather than the norm.

Take the incompatibilities that plagued the public-key infrastructure market, the stateful inspection versus packet filtering approaches to firewalls or the more current intrusion protection versus intrusion detection debate. On the other hand we're starting to see some sort of consensus (based on 802.1X) on an approach to wireless LAN security, but not comes from equipment vendors more than security firms.

Secondly the list of names (Citadel Security Software, GuardedNet, NetContinuum, SPI Dynamics and Teros) so far signed up for AVDL lacks the real heavy hitters. Cisco, Network Associates, ISS and Symantec don't feature.

IBM, Computer Associates and HP, which make good money selling tools that enable enterprises to manage their security infrastructure, aren't signed up either. AVDL may make it easier to manage and deploy best in breed products. But are security suite evangelists, like IBM and HP, going to be keen on this approach?

Lastly we need to consider the anti-virus tools market, where vendors can't even agree names for viruses much less anything else. For years end users have looked to consistency in naming, vendors always say that's a good idea - then do nothing.

The first meeting of the full OASIS Technical Committee for AVDL has been scheduled for May 15. The first candidate AVDL specification will be posted for comment during Q3'03, with final spec due before the end of the year. Additional information on AVDL is available here. ®

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