Vulnerability management is one of the most critical steps in cybersecurity. Most data breaches and ransomware attacks stem from known vulnerabilities that haven’t been addressed.
Vulnerability management is a continuous process of identifying, assessing, prioritizing, and mitigating software errors. It includes building a full asset inventory, creating a security configuration baseline, identifying and reporting known vulnerabilities on an automated schedule, and assessing risk.
It’s nearly impossible for a company to root out every vulnerability in its network. It is because vulnerability management programs must be implemented and maintained continuously, and even with the most advanced tools and cybersecurity teams, new threats will always emerge.
As a result, a risk assessment is essential to the success of a vulnerability management program. This step determines possible mishaps and their likelihood and determines an organization’s risk tolerance.
The team responsible for assessing the risk of each vulnerability is called a risk assessor or threat analyst. This person must be a senior security leader with deep knowledge of the business and its processes to make the most accurate decisions about addressing vulnerabilities. This individual also champions good security practices across the organization, gaining other business leaders’ buy-in and helping manage the program. They will also work with asset owners to gain deeper insight into each asset.
Vulnerability scanning uses software to identify misconfigurations, weaknesses, and other flaws attackers can exploit. Enterprises use various scanning tools (with or without agents or credentials) to look at each device in their environment and compare them against the known vulnerabilities released by software vendors.
It is an ongoing process because new vulnerability exploits can emerge overnight, and companies must constantly retest their environments to ensure that the correct fixes are made. It is important because, as investigations into the Equifax data breach show, even seemingly trivial errors in patching can open doors for attackers.
It is necessary to identify roles and duties within the team to increase the efficiency of this procedure. The most effective models separate these into monitors, remediators, and authorizers, each with specific tasks related to the vulnerability management lifecycle. Monitoring teams scan the environments, identify vulnerabilities, and report their findings to others. Remediators then fix the problems to eliminate them as potential attack vectors.
As threat actors become more sophisticated, the number of vulnerabilities that need to be fixed increases. As a result, cybersecurity professionals must carefully assess each new vulnerability’s risk and determine how to prioritize them for remediation.
It requires analyzing the results of scans in the context of your entire threat landscape, as well as taking into consideration other factors such as the likely frequency with which an attacker will target each asset (threat event frequency, or LEF) and their attack capability – how hard it would be for an adversary to exploit this vulnerability. Once the team decides how to resolve each vulnerability, they must fix them by patching or reconfiguring.
Once the remediation process is complete, verifying that those vulnerabilities are no longer present through additional scanning or IT reporting is important. Finally, the team needs to provide IT and executives with a summary of the current state of vulnerability management – think red/yellow/green type reporting.
As attackers become more sophisticated, protecting enterprise networks requires a more proactive approach to vulnerability management. It is a continuous identification, prioritization, evaluation, treatment, and reporting process to prevent cyberattacks that can lead to data breaches and their associated astronomical costs.
Scanners that can examine authenticated and unauthenticated assets and compare them to a database of known vulnerabilities should be a part of any vulnerability management solution. It makes it possible for the team to find misconfigurations and other operating system and software mistakes that malicious actors can try to exploit.
The next step is to prioritize each discovered vulnerability based on its risk metrics and other factors specific to an organization’s environment. The goal is to resolve as many threats as possible before they cause a breach. It often involves creating and deploying patches to eliminate vulnerabilities from attack surfaces. It can also involve using mitigation techniques to lessen the impact of threats that cannot be eliminated.