The CVE database reported 18,325 vulnerabilities in 2020. To add to this, more than 40% of the vulnerabilities do not even have a CVE identifier assigned, and open vulnerabilities on organizations’ infrastructure are the most widely exploited pain points for malicious attacks – including ransomware. The irony is that many organizations rely on periodic vulnerability assessment activities, like performing scans bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly, but following this process can take months to complete, ultimately leaving a massive gap for attackers to exploit. This is an example of routine (but random) methodologies and processes invented to keep vulnerabilities in check, but will not protect IT networks. It is essential to assess key areas, identify necessary components, and build a robust and automated vulnerability management program to safeguard your network from the growing attack surface. To do that, below are some best practices to implement into your IT strategy for a robust vulnerability management program.
A unified approach to both network and endpoint vulnerabilities
A vulnerability is classified as any loophole in your network that is exploitable. Modern attackers explore multiple angles to achieve their attack objectives, whether that’s a nation-state actor looking to disrupt critical infrastructure or a cybergang looking to make a quick few million dollars. Focusing on one area and neglecting the other will easily create security gaps.
For example, traditional vulnerability management programs focus on remote scanning only and ignore vulnerabilities in the endpoints. With the changing work norms ushered in by the pandemic, endpoints have become an easy exploit target, and your vulnerability management program should give equal importance to managing both network and endpoint vulnerabilities. Many CISOs ignore software vulnerabilities considering them less critical to their security, but this opens gateways for attackers to intrude the network. Your vulnerability management program must manage vulnerabilities across all IP-enabled devices in your IT infrastructure.
Continuous, ongoing and automated vulnerability assessment schedules
Every day, numerous vulnerabilities are disclosed, and taking a periodic vulnerability assessment approach will not help you identify the most recent risks – it will actually keep you several steps behind in building security resilience. With the speed at which attackers can penetrate networks, a tiny gap is enough to execute an attack, and your vulnerability management process should be continuous and ongoing to avoid any unforeseen security risks. Opting for a solution that automates the vulnerability management routine will simplify the process and increase effectiveness.
Speed and efficiency of vulnerability scanners
Vulnerability scanning is the foremost step in your vulnerability management process. Slow vulnerability scanners create a lag, slow business processes, and act as a major pitfall for any vulnerability management program. These scanners hinder IT security teams from running continuous scans. Along with this, the vast number of false positives provided by vulnerability scanners makes the entire process even more ineffective. The vulnerability scanner you choose should be rapid, efficient, compatible with your network infrastructure, and provide close to zero false positives.
Breadth and comprehensiveness of a vulnerability database
Performing vulnerability scanning based on CVE data alone is inaccurate and leads to false reporting. Vulnerability scanners must rely on a comprehensive database or a repository of security checks that perform a deep analysis on each vulnerability. As a result, vulnerability databases play a vital role in the vulnerability management program, and the quality of the vulnerability database determines the accuracy of your vulnerability assessment data. Consider using a comprehensive vulnerability database with coverage to both network and endpoint vulnerabilities and is regularly updated to identify the most recent vulnerability in your network.
Risk-based vulnerability analysis
Taking remediation efforts randomly without understanding the risks possessed by each vulnerability is not an intelligent approach to risk-based vulnerability analysis. Every IT infrastructure is unique and has varying risk levels based on access to the network, security tokens, and other elements. Your vulnerability assessment should focus on analyzing risk levels of all vulnerabilities and remediate the most critical ones first. Risk levels are calculated by considering various factors like threat intelligence, public ratings of vulnerabilities, assets in the enterprise, current exploit activities, and many more organization-specific factors.
Additionally, a vulnerability assessment program should also meet the compliance standards set by regulatory agencies like HIPAA, PCI, NIST, and others.
Vulnerability assessment must go beyond assessing only known vulnerabilities
Your security exposure analysis should go beyond assessing only known vulnerabilities. Crucial activities like misconfiguration assessment, asset exposure analysis, and monitoring security control deviations must be a part of your IT security checklist.
Integrated patch remediation
The most crucial step followed by vulnerability assessment is to remediate detected vulnerabilities. According to a recent study, 60% of breaches involve vulnerabilities for which a patch was available but not applied on time. Patching helps security teams reduce the attack surface significantly and helps prevent attacks. Your vulnerability management program should be equipped with an integrated patch management tool to remediate vulnerabilities on time, and the patching process safeguards networks from an array of potential attacks.
Extensive report catalog
Tracking and monitoring the actions of your vulnerability management process will help you analyze what steps you need to take to adjust your IT security strategy. Insightful reports will help you review and evaluate your vulnerability management process and provide the necessary details of vulnerabilities in your network. Your vulnerability management program should offer an extensive range of reports for detailed study and analysis.
Keeping in mind these key factors will help you evaluate your current vulnerability management program and guide you in making the necessary enhancements to your existing IT strategy. By implementing a robust, resilient, expansive, and automated vulnerability management program, you’ll mitigate cyberattacks through minimizing vulnerability risk, ultimately protecting your company’s and customers’ information – and your reputation.