More Than a Scan: Vulnerability Management Provides Vital Context and Direction

By Fortra's Digital Defense

With sophisticated and persistent cyberattacks on the rise, it has never been more critical for organizations to outpace savvy criminals and prevent costly security risks. It is essential that businesses today are able to utilize risk-based vulnerability management scans to identify and eliminate system weaknesses before they are exploited. This is best accomplished by proactively and effectively managing vulnerabilities and threats.

A foundational component of an efficient and effective vulnerability management program is vulnerability scanning,  But comprehensive vulnerability management is much more than just a scan; it's about critical management and prioritization of scan results, strategic remediation, prevention and, yes, even acceptance.

The Dynamic Cybersecurity Landscape

Cybercriminals are constantly developing new tactics for infiltrating enterprise networks and systems. They endeavor to discover new vulnerabilities or exploit old ones before your applications are updated, configured, or patched to defend against threats, malware, and misconfigurations. Malicious actors also benefit from technological innovations like any other business would. Bolstered by the likes of machine learning and AI, they are keenly poised to capitalize on security weaknesses. Unfortunately, the ripple effects of the COVID pandemic have opened many doors for them including:

Vulnerability During Transition  -- The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically accelerated digital transformation in a matter of months. As organizations enter times of transition, perhaps updating infrastructure or moving to the cloud, they often find themselves maintaining two different infrastructures while setting up one and sunsetting the other. This increases their attack surface while resources are stretched and distracted. Additionally, new system configurations can introduce additional vulnerabilities that weren’t’ there before, giving cyber criminals more opportunities to exploit weaknesses during times of change.

Expanding Universe of Endpoints  -- As remote work has increased, so has the hardware, networks, and software that IT teams must manage. For example, personal computers are in the corporate mix more than they used to be. According to the Work-from-Home (WFH) Employee Cyber Security Threat Index from Morphisec, around 56% of employees now use their personal computers to access the company network. IT teams are challenged to manage this expanding universe of endpoints, which leads to security gaps.

Why Management Matters

Unlike running a one-off vulnerability scan, Vulnerability Management is the continuous programmatic process of identifying, classifying, prioritizing, and resolving vulnerabilities or weaknesses within operating systems, enterprise applications, end-user applications, and browsers. The continuousness is key when you consider how quickly security landscapes and attack vectors are changing.

A key responsibility of IT departments – or managed service providers – is to respond appropriately to this dynamic environment and the ever-growing number of threats and vulnerabilities. That’s no easy feat when you consider that the U.S. Government’s National Vulnerability Database (NVD) published 20,137 vulnerability entries in 2021, an increase over previous years. To stay ahead of the game, IT teams must employ a risk-based vulnerability management program to quickly determine which vulnerabilities pose the highest risk and which pose little risk at all. Some vulnerabilities are not risky enough to warrant remediation and therefore resources should not be spent on them.

Vulnerability scanning is a standard first step for organizations to assess their system, network, and application security weaknesses. It’s a necessary first step but not enough, and it can provide an alarming volume of results. It is simply not possible for most IT security teams with budget constraints and limited personnel to resolve every single vulnerability that arises in a potentially pages-long vulnerability scan. Fortunately, there are ways organizations address this daunting list of cyber vulnerabilities, even with limited resources.

1.    Ensure Reliable Scanning Results

For starters, a precise picture of the vulnerability scan is required. Skewed data can really affect this picture; upwards of a dozen false positives can typically be found in many vulnerability scan solutions, so using a highly accurate vulnerability management program with a lower than 1% false positive rate will help your security team start from a place of accuracy.

2.    Use Personalized Risk-Based Prioritization

While the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) is the global standard for scoring known vulnerabilities, it is very general in its scoring mechanism and not specifically tailored for particular businesses or industries. In 2021, 54% of vulnerabilities were classified as critical or high severity by the CVSS. For many businesses, this results in a laundry list of critical-rated vulnerabilities and unfortunately, when everything is rated critical, nothing is.

Therefore a more personalized layer of prioritization must be applied that takes into account an organization’s unique system characteristics and risk appetite. The right risk-based vulnerability management solution will enable the inclusion of this valuable context, allowing for a level of customization that includes asset criticality.

3.    Intelligent remediation

A quality-over-quantity mindset is required for intelligent vulnerability remediation planning. There is a remediation sweet spot for every business which combines the full picture of that organization’s asset criticality and risk appetite with threat intelligence that includes exploitability metrics. The correct combination of threat data and proprietary technology will enable IT teams to pinpoint the right remediation targets that can yield maximum security benefit.

The Vulnerability Management Solution

There are so many security risks facing enterprises today, and the risk-based vulnerability management process is challenging without the right tools. It’s vital to have an automated solution that segments vulnerabilities and threats based on risk, provides insightful prioritizations, and offers a centralized dashboard and intuitive metrics so you can remedy your high-risk issues first.

Connect with Digital Defense today to find out how we can start protecting your network with the most effective risk-based vulnerability management program on the market.

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