Date of Award

Fall 12-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Computer Science

Committee Director

Michele C. Weigle

Committee Member

Michael L. Nelson

Committee Member

Ross J. Gore

Committee Member

Faryaneh Poursardar


The relentless and often haphazard process of tracking and remediating vulnerabilities is a top concern for cybersecurity professionals. The key challenge they face is trying to identify a remediation scheme specific to in-house, organizational objectives. Without a strategy, the result is a patchwork of fixes applied to a tide of vulnerabilities, any one of which could be the single point of failure in an otherwise formidable defense. This means one of the biggest challenges in vulnerability management relates to prioritization. Given that so few vulnerabilities are a focus of real-world attacks, a practical remediation strategy is to identify vulnerabilities likely to be exploited and focus efforts towards remediating those vulnerabilities first. The goal of this research is to demonstrate that aggregating and synthesizing readily accessible, public data sources to provide personalized, automated recommendations that an organization can use to prioritize its vulnerability management strategy will offer significant improvements over what is currently realized using the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS). We provide a framework for vulnerability management specifically focused on mitigating threats using adversary criteria derived from MITRE ATT&CK. We identify the data mining steps needed to acquire, standardize, and integrate publicly available cyber intelligence data sets into a robust knowledge graph from which stakeholders can infer business logic related to known threats. We tested our approach by identifying vulnerabilities in academic and common software associated with six universities and four government facilities. Ranking policy performance was measured using the Normalized Discounted Cumulative Gain (nDCG). Our results show an average 71.5% to 91.3% improvement towards the identification of vulnerabilities likely to be targeted and exploited by cyber threat actors. The ROI of patching using our policies resulted in a savings in the range of 23.3% to 25.5% in annualized unit costs. Our results demonstrate the efficiency of creating knowledge graphs to link large data sets to facilitate semantic queries and create data-driven, flexible ranking policies. Additionally, our framework uses only open standards, making implementation and improvement feasible for cyber practitioners and academia.


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Copyright, 2023, by Corren G. McCoy, All Rights Reserved.