Unpatched vulnerabilities and misconfigurations in your network make your organization vulnerable to ransomware attacks and data breaches. Vulnerability management is one of the most effective ways to control your cyber risk , but an effective implementation of the program requires a customized strategy that takes into account your company’s risk practices and needs.
Understanding vulnerability management system and its processes
Vulnerability management is the process of identifying software vulnerabilities, and fixing them before they can be exploited by attackers. A software is considered vulnerable when it contains an exploit, bug or CVE, or when the manufacturer’s support has been discontinued – this is called legacy software. Cybersecurity experts leverage management tools and their IT expertise to detect vulnerabilities, and employ a range of strategies to either patch or remediate them.
Because most assets are directly exposed to the internet, an old-school perimeter-based cybersecurity approach is no longer viable. A vulnerability management system focuses on asset-specific vulnerabilities , examining all computing technologies in use within your organization’s environment.
A vulnerability management system is a need, not a luxury
Software is essential to run any organization, but using it poses unavoidable risks. Besides updates and upgrades, patches in software are the only ways to fix vulnerabilities while retaining functionality, but vulnerabilities have to be found first. Software could have undetected vulnerabilities at any given point in time that neither the organization nor the manufacturer knew about. While not all vulnerabilities carry the same risk, some can be lethal, like the infamous EternalBlue exploit.
If your company needs specific software to do business, maintaining that software should be considered a priority, not a cost. With the average cost of a data breach being 2.98 million for small businesses, vulnerability management is a necessary prevention tool that strengthens your overall cyber defense strategy.
Vulnerability management with a proactive approach
A vulnerability management system requires the expertise of true industry professionals, as assessing vulnerabilities involves more than following a guideline or identifying known flaws; cybersecurity experts must be able to foresee the attacker’s next moves . Pucara Cybersecurity is uniquely equipped to handle this challenge, as we have a strong background in offensive cybersecurity.
Vulnerability management process
Vulnerability management is only successful when software is continuously being scanned for vulnerabilities. Attackers keep coming up with new ways to exploit a system, changes are made to networks, and your cybersecurity strategy should adapt accordingly to keep your assets protected.
Vulnerability management is a four-stage cycle. The process improves with each new iteration, as it builds upon the results and feedback of the last cycle and takes into account new developments within the field.
Vulnerability management stages
The first stage determines the scope of the test, identifying all relevant assets within the internal and external network and the software your organization is using and which versions, down to the packages and libraries. Each asset is then scanned for vulnerabilities, at-risk assets are identified and relevant data is gathered.
Priority Setting & Response Planning
After identifying critical assets and detecting vulnerabilities, we create a priority list, ranking found vulnerabilities according to their severity level. This allows us to prioritize responses and allocate resources in accordance with the threat. The process is also informed by threat intelligence. We compile all the information collected so far into a report, creating clear risk response instructions to address found vulnerabilities following our priority ranking. Response planning also involves acquisition, validation and testing of patches for the at-risk software, searching for suitable alternatives to legacy software that can no longer be patched and deploying additional security controls.
Risk Response Implementation
We implement our response plan, acting on critical- or high ranking vulnerabilities immediately. Once those have been dealt with, we move onto medium-ranking vulnerabilities. Low-ranking vulnerabilities come last. Depending on the situation, we will either remediate the vulnerability, patching up or upgrading the asset before it becomes an attack point, or develop mitigation strategies that prevent attackers from exploiting your system. In some instances, low-ranking vulnerabilities can be left alone if their impact level is low and they do not involve any critical assets. In other cases, a vulnerability cannot be mitigated and the asset must be decommissioned to avoid an attack.
Reassess, monitor & repeat
A new assessment is carried out to verify the risk response. This stage includes re-scanning the vulnerability-impacted assets, confirming that patch installation was successful, that any upgrade or update was correctly implemented and that decommissioned assets have been thoroughly eliminated from the system. The reassessment should also reveal your success at reducing the organization’s overall cyber attack surface. Feedback from this cycle will be used to inform the next cycle, making your vulnerability management efforts a continuous process of cybersecurity improvement. Deployed patches will be monitored to track changes in software behavior and to ensure that they remain installed.
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