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You’ve probably heard this statistic before, but it’s worth repeating: cybersecurity attacks are up 600% due to the pandemic. That means cybercriminals are growing evermore relentless and deft with their attacks, and you don’t want your enterprise to be wide open to attacks.
Assessing and managing the vulnerabilities within your organization, whether on the network or via hardware or software, is a foundational element of a strong cybersecurity posture. Keep reading to learn more!
What Are Vulnerabilities, Threats, and Exploits in Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity vulnerabilities, threats, and exploits are terms that sometimes get used interchangeably—despite having distinct meanings from one another. Before explaining vulnerability management, it's important to know what vulnerabilities, threats, and exploits all mean in cybersecurity terms:
- Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities. In cybersecurity, a vulnerability is a potential weakness in a security architecture that opens an organization or individual to cyberattacks.
- Cybersecurity Threats. The term "cybersecurity threat" refers to combination of tools and methods involved in a cyberattack. These threats are not inherent to the network. Instead, they leverage vulnerabilities on the network.
- Cybersecurity Exploits. Exploits can be defined as when a cybersecurity threat is applied to a vulnerability to conduct some form of malicious activity. Impacts of these exploits may vary by threat and vulnerability type.
The challenge of dealing with cybersecurity vulnerabilities, exploits, and threats is that they are always changing. Every day, new vulnerabilities and exploits are discovered, which then prompt attackers to create new cyber threats that take advantage of them.
Vulnerability management processes, such as vulnerability testing and patch management, are crucial for blunting new cybersecurity threats as they arise.
What Is Vulnerability Management?
Vulnerability management is the practice of proactively finding and fixing potential weaknesses in an organization's network security. The basic goal is to apply these fixes before an attacker can use them to cause a cybersecurity breach.
As the name indicates, vulnerability management entails identifying, analyzing, and resolving potential vulnerabilities within your organization or network before they become exploited by an attack.
It's important to note that there is no standardized method of building a vulnerability management program. So, the methodology behind a vulnerability management system may vary from one organization to the next depending on available resources and specific risks they face.
Vulnerability Management vs. Vulnerability Assessment
Relatedly, a vulnerability assessment is part of the vulnerability management process. In order to identify, analyze, and resolve vulnerabilities found within the hardware and software of your enterprise, you’ll first need to perform a vulnerability assessment.
This is a foundational step for long-term vulnerability management but also provides immediate insight into your organization’s cybersecurity posture.
The Importance of Vulnerability Management
Network vulnerabilities represent security gaps that could be abused by attackers to damage network assets, trigger a denial of service, and/or steal potentially sensitive information. Attackers are constantly looking for new vulnerabilities to exploit—and taking advantage of old vulnerabilities that may have gone unpatched.
Having a vulnerability management framework in place that regularly checks for new vulnerabilities is crucial for preventing cybersecurity breaches. Without a vulnerability testing and patch management system, old security gaps may be left on the network for extended periods of time. This gives attackers more of an opportunity to exploit vulnerabilities and carry out their attacks.
The Vulnerability Management Process: 4 Steps to Follow
What can you do to create or establish an IT vulnerability management framework in your own organization? There are a couple of ways to build out a vulnerability management program: creating the program internally or using a vulnerability management service from a managed security service provider (MSSP).
When building a vulnerability management program internally, there are several factors that you will need to account for:
- Inventory Management: You can’t patch what you don’t know you have. Tracking your inventory of assets is crucial for verifying that you have addressed all vulnerabilities in your network. If you have an unknown asset on the network, then you will have unpatched vulnerabilities from that asset.
- Patch Management: How will you deliver security patches to your network assets? When will patches be applied? Will you have to disable some or all of your network to apply fixes to your major vulnerabilities?
- Vulnerability Scanning Solutions: How will you check for vulnerabilities? It’s important to have a comprehensive suite of vulnerability scanning tools for detecting weaknesses and logging them for future fixes. Checking external network assets (such as vendor networks, cloud-based applications, and external servers) with vulnerability scanners is also crucial for modern vulnerability testing.
- Risk Assessment: What are the biggest security risks revealed during penetration testing? When allocating resources to patch management, it is important to prioritize the easiest to fix vulnerabilities that have the biggest impact on your network security. For example, if there was a vulnerability that could be fixed with less than 15 minutes of work, but would cost you $1 million if an attack leveraged it, that would take priority over a minor bug that would take hours to fix and not affect any critical systems if exploited.
Once you’ve acquired these important components of your vulnerability management program, follow these steps:
Step 1: Identify Vulnerabilities
This ties back to our earlier discussion of vulnerability management versus assessment. A vulnerability assessment is an important first step in creating a vulnerability management plan because you can’t address what you simply don’t know.
Without a way to first identify vulnerabilities, your management plan will be a shot in the dark instead of an informed strategy. Identify vulnerabilities with an initial assessment and be open to employee feedback if they have come into contact with other types of vulnerabilities.
Be sure to scan systems and applications that have access to your network, plus track the services that run on your network, including remote access portals for comprehensive assessment.
Step 2: Analyze Vulnerabilities
You’ve identified a series of vulnerabilities within your network—now what?
The next step is to analyze how dangerous a vulnerability is and estimate how much time, money, or other resources it would take to repair it. You and your team should ask some questions to determine these characteristics, including:
- How easy was it to find this vulnerability?
- How challenging would it be for an attacker to exploit this vulnerability?
- What risk does this vulnerability pose to our network or digital assets?
- When was this vulnerability first discovered and how long has it been on our network?
- What can we do now to address this vulnerability?
Each vulnerability might differ from one to another, so be sure to determine key information to make informed decisions moving forward with your vulnerability management team.
Step 3: Address Vulnerabilities
Upon realizing the severity of vulnerabilities that might be on your network, hardware, or software, it’s time to treat them.
You can prioritize which vulnerabilities to address first or which ones aren’t too risky for your organization with the following action plans:
- Remediate: This means that your enterprise wholly resolves the vulnerability, which is the ideal plan of action for all potential threats found within your network; if not currently possible to resolve each and every vulnerability found, this should at least be the expectation for addressing weaknesses with significant potential damage to your organization
- Mitigate: If full resolution isn’t possible for the vulnerability, you can at least mitigate its potential impact on your enterprise. This plan of action ultimately buys you time until a solution is found and still tremendously helps your cybersecurity posture
- Acceptance: When the cost of resolving a vulnerability outweighs the potential risk of the vulnerability itself, it’s smart to just maintain an awareness of it and take no further action
Work with your internal IT team to determine which vulnerabilities need immediate attention and remediation, which ones can simply be mitigated for the time being, and which ones aren’t worth any action in general.
Step 4: Report and Monitor Vulnerabilities
Cybersecurity threats are constantly evolving and manifesting. It’s important to not fall stagnant in your vulnerability management program—and you can avoid this by regularly monitoring existing vulnerabilities and routinely checking for new ones.
Compile reports of existing vulnerabilities and their plans of action and establish an easy way to report potential vulnerabilities across all teams within your organization. This will help your internal IT team stay apprised of present and future threats.
Partner with Compuquip for Vulnerability Management Services Today!
Is your team overwhelmed with handling an internal vulnerability management program? Partner with Compuquip today to expertly manage vulnerabilities within your organization and fortify your enterprise’s cybersecurity posture along the way.
Compuquip’s team of experienced cybersecurity professionals will work with you to assess the current state of vulnerabilities and get to work resolving them.
Don’t neglect this crucial part of your organization’s cybersecurity strategy. Reach out to the experts at Compuquip Cybersecurity today to learn more!
Beat Cyber Criminals
Stay ahead of threats and attacks by implementing a vulnerability management program using this checklist.