The importance of vulnerability management
Cybercriminals are constantly searching for security weaknesses so they can access your computer and your sensitive data, and the most common causes of these exploitations are software and network vulnerabilities. These criminals will do anything they can to insert disruptive malware, compromise system infrastructure, and access confidential or sensitive data.
Why is vulnerability management important?
Even though vulnerability management is effective against many cybersecurity risks, the massive number of data breaches proves that organizations often overlook implementing a solid vulnerability management process, and are therefore compromised due to unnoticed patches and misconfigurations.
Vulnerability management aims to detect such vulnerabilities before malicious hackers can discover them by examining the security posture of an organization.
This is precisely why implementing a vulnerability management program is essential for any size business. Strong vulnerability management takes advantage of threat intelligence and knowledge of the IT team to rank risks and confront security vulnerabilities promptly.
4 Stages of Vulnerability Management
Across endpoints, systems, and workload, the vulnerability management process identifies, assesses, reports, manages, and remediates security vulnerabilities. Generally, a vulnerability management tool is leveraged by a security team to detect weak points and then patch or remediate them.
First, you should locate and flag exploitable gaps with the help of vulnerability scanners that can assess network systems for misconfigurations and correct file system structures. The vulnerability scans must be properly configured and up-to-date in order to receive accurate results.
In order to evaluate the precision of results and make adjustments if the need arises, it is advisable to administer a dry-run during out-of-work hours. This is because every so often, vulnerability scanning can disrupt the systems and networks while they scan, so your operations may be interrupted.
Although vulnerability scanners are highly effective programs, they are not the only tools that gather system vulnerability data. In order to constantly gather vulnerability data from systems without performing network scans, endpoint agents are a huge help as well.
Having identified vulnerabilities, next comes the evaluation phase. Because identifying weaknesses is necessary in order to prioritize them, these need to be evaluated in line with your business risk management in this stage. Vulnerability management solutions provide risk ratings and scores for vulnerabilities, such as Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS).
These scores provide you with insights to assist in prioritization. However, it’s important to remember that the true risk posed by any given vulnerability is not just related to these scores and rankings. There are other factors it could depend on, including but not limited to:
- How long has this vulnerability been on your assets?
- Is there any known exploit code for it?
- How would this vulnerability impact your business and operations if exploited?
- Could hackers exploit vulnerabilities directly from your internet?
- Could it be a false positive?
While each of these questions is critical in its own right, the last one is particularly important, because dealing with false positives is not only time-consuming, but also distracts your security teams from dealing with the real threats.
And of course, vulnerability scanners aren’t flawless- it’s impossible to say their false-positive detection rates are zero. At this point, penetration testing tools help you eliminate false positives.
You can’t root out every vulnerability. The consequences of trying to eliminate every vulnerability can be devastating in terms of time management, energy, and cost. Sometimes the cost of fixing the vulnerability is substantially greater than the cost incurred by an organization if the vulnerability were to be exploited. As such, it is necessary to prioritize your treatment as well.
Of course, completely fixing or patching a vulnerability is the ideal treatment in order to prevent exploitation. However, other solutions may be much more functional.
Although it is not a holistic solution, you can reduce the risk of an attack on vulnerable areas through mitigation. This option comes to the rescue when a proper fixing or patching option is not yet available for an identified vulnerability. It won’t completely solve the problem, but it will save you some time.
If a vulnerability is deemed low risk, there may be no need to take action to fix or lessen the vulnerability. It is, however, necessary to calculate the cost and magnitude of the risk.
After remediation, mitigation, or acceptance, you should report vulnerabilities to improve your security operations and incident response process in the future. For instance, if an ongoing attack occurs, you can consult your patch records and develop a more effective response. What’s more, in order to comply with regulations and standards, having a record of vulnerabilities would be proof of your accountability.
Differences Between a Vulnerability, a Risk, and a Threat
Words matter, especially in the cybersecurity industry. Since cybersecurity has various moving parts, it’s easy for those new to vulnerability management to get confused. Some of the most commonly confused terms are risk, threat, and vulnerability.
According to the International Organization for Standardization ( ISO 27002), a vulnerability is a “weakness of an asset or group of assets that can be exploited by one or more threats.” Simply put, vulnerabilities are the weak spots within your cyber environment.
So then what is a threat? A threat is the thing that can exploit a vulnerability, like malware or ransomware, not the vulnerability itself.
Risk (in cybersecurity) is the possibility of loss or exposure that occurs due to a cyber attack on your organization. More specifically, it’s also a potential loss, the probability of a negative incident, and the impact of the event on your infrastructure.
Expand Your Developers’ Vulnerability Awareness!
Fixing a vulnerability is always more expensive than writing secure code from the very beginning. In a fast-paced environment, new security vulnerabilities are popping up every day. The common goal of everyone, including malicious hackers, is to find these vulnerabilities.
At Avatao, we offer a secure coding training solution so your developers can familiarize themselves with vulnerabilities and the appropriate best practices, making it less likely the same bugs will occur the next time they’re writing code. Our training platform enables your team to gain experience through interactive, real-world examples in a safe environment.
We have also compiled several exercises anyone can try out to take a deeper look into the most common vulnerabilities reported by the OWASP community.
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