Corporations are certainly aware of the digital vulnerabilities presented by today’s multi-platform technology. Increasingly, IT teams are now called on to do more with less time, budget, and manpower. As a service component, IT must find new ways to help knowledge workers become more efficient and effective without sacrificing security.
Organizational stakeholders and leadership must collaborate with – not just command – IT to meet these rising challenges. Cloud and IoT infrastructure have been ever more crucial to businesses, while requiring consistent evolution of IT frameworks. The added pressures of maintaining and securing hybrid work environments, as well as accommodating mergers and acquisitions and managing countless other responsibilities, can throw many IT professionals into overdrive.
The cybersecurity market is expected to exceed $350 billion by 2026 as damaging threats and growing reliance on technical infrastructure rise. However, the constant flux and increasing demand on internal teams can reduce resources for cybersecurity oversight in a field where talented professionals are often already hard to find. The good news? While businesses should certainly prioritize data security and operational integrity, the situation need not be as daunting as it may seem.
There were more than 20,000 new vulnerabilities identified in 2020, which sounds like – and admittedly is – a lot. However, only about 1,200 were actually exploitable. By assessing the real risk presented by a particular threat, IT professionals can focus their resources on the mitigation efforts that will likely have the most positive impact on overall security. Digital Defense Vice President of Product Management Mieng Lim explored this topic in depth in two recent webinars: Three Ways to Extend Your Vulnerability Management Program and Using Frontline to the Fullest.
1. Assess Vulnerability Risks
Before you can isolate where or how to protect your network, you need a factual understanding of what you are working with. Companies can have tens of thousands of endpoints, from servers to operating systems. However, most companies are not able to name the top 100 (or even 10) threats to their most critical assets.
The goal is to move your organization away from a casual approach to cybersecurity that passively relies on the security updates or patches from your software and systems providers. Instead, a mature security model will involve a more complete understanding of vulnerable gateways and possible pathways that outside threats could take to get to your most important data.
Analyzing the scope of potential exploitation can help you prioritize areas for improvement or reinforcement. Regular vulnerability scans can provide amazing insight into potential weaknesses and how to best address them with an eye to legal compliance and data integrity.
2. Decide Where to Start
With the right information, IT professionals can take actionable steps to reduce risk for both systems and processes. But many vulnerability assessment solutions provide information overload with copious pages that provide general information that is neither contextualized nor customized. This makes it nearly impossible for IT teams to know logically where to concentrate.
One of the first places to start is compliance. Clarifying exactly what information storage and protection requirements your organization must comply with can help you isolate initial areas for improvement. This is especially the case for companies working within compliance systems such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI).
Another approach is to explore vulnerabilities within the framework of business context and threat level. Practical vulnerability solutions will help IT teams assess risk exposure and develop mitigation strategies with prioritization. Leaders can then evaluate a more comprehensive threat landscape, knowing which compromised systems can open risk to other connected systems for more accurate risk scoring. A closed-loop vulnerability management program looks at existing practices, security gaps, and remediation steps for continuous threat monitoring, and does so automatically on repeat.
3. Measure What Matters
Capturing the right metrics can help companies move from a risk-based, or reactive, patching model to a compliance-based, or proactive, model. Prioritized scan results and measurable processes can be correlated with trends and target metrics for specific security initiatives.
With measurement also comes accountability and the ability to determine protection efficacy through third-party penetration testing and benchmarking. Running remediation steps against known vulnerabilities to confirm exploitation potential is part of enterprise risk management. Simulations can also confirm that implemented changes were effective so teams can move on to the next priority. These measures factor into compliance models and give companies more firm ground to stand on in the event of an audit.
4. Employ Defensive Strategies
Thinking like an attacker provides a unique angle for protection of your most critical assets. What attack paths in your network could a threat look to use? What secondary or tertiary relationships do those connection points in the system have to more vital areas of your system? Testing and validating these attack paths can be a great way to prioritize risk mitigation in practical ways.
A risk-based vulnerability management program can process this information, consider the data in terms of exploitability, and highlight exactly where to focus security operations. Companies stand to experience a higher return for their effort by focusing on vulnerabilities that have been exploited in the wild or have been weaponized.
Teams are able to determine which vulnerabilities can be addressed by patches or need to be accommodated by broader changes. This exponentially reduces any remaining exposure, allowing teams to segment devices or systems that have been compromised. Another method is to create additional obstacles for access, such as biometrics, two-factor authentication, or managed SSO frameworks that limit who has the keys to your data.
The goal is to employ these defensive strategies in line with their real-world potential risk. Malicious actors are looking to leverage tried-and-true, weaponized tactics. With an understanding of exploitable vulnerabilities in relation to existing measures and gaps, organizations can optimize resources to focus on controlling what they can control and protect against the threats likely to do the most damage.
As you reassess your own security infrastructure, establishing a risk-based program can help you mitigate the most detrimental vulnerabilities with the resources you already have in place. Digital Defense’s Frontline VM, a Frontline.Cloud system, is the industry’s most comprehensive, accurate, and easy-to-use vulnerability management solution. Using proprietary scanning technology, our vulnerability management solution performs comprehensive security assessments and helps prioritize and track the results, making management of remediation more efficient and effective. Contact us to learn more.