Companies with a presence on the internet and widespread networks are increasingly being targeted by malicious code writers. There’s ample evidence to suggest hackers and Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) groups routinely run campaigns trying to snare employees, contractors, etc. to steal data or hold it for ransom. Simply put, cyber threats and cyberattacks are on the rise.
Be it industrial, manufacturing, or critical infrastructure organizations, companies must remain vigilant about cybersecurity. Vulnerability Management isn’t just for large tech companies and internet giants. Nowadays, companies who have any operations, apps, websites, etc. need Vulnerability Management.
What is Vulnerability Management?
Vulnerability Management is a broad term. It usually comprises of policies, processes, and tools that companies must have in place to not only defend against attacks but also strengthen their security posture. The primary goal is to reduce organizational risk by limiting or eliminating weak spots, loopholes, or basically any vulnerabilities that hackers can compromise.
Threats are rarely, if ever, visible. Moreover, there are can be several vulnerabilities that hackers can try and exploit. APT groups have to be successful with just one to cripple defenses, and penetrate deep into industrial networks for financial gain or interrupt operations.
Vulnerability Management program is the foundation to managing cybersecurity risks in the ever-evolving cyber security landscape. According to the data from National Vulnerability Database NIST, there has been an increase in the complexity of the vulnerability landscape, and as a result, developers are facing plenty of issues in dealing with new vulnerabilities.
Understanding the Key Vulnerability Management Challenges Organizations Face
Vulnerability Management is not a one-time process. Security loopholes, exploitable bugs, and powerful computer viruses are generated regularly. Hence organizations must have a continuous process to safeguard their applications from any potential cyber-attacks. Needless to mention, developers face several challenges that can hinder the successful deployment of Vulnerability Management programs.
Here are some of the key Vulnerability Management Challenges that most developers face:
1. Incomplete Asset Inventory
There’s a very common adage: “You can’t protect what you can’t see.” This is painfully true when deploying Vulnerability Management protocols. Many organizations have little to none asset inventory data. And whatever data is created, could most likely be stored in ageing and archaic spreadsheets. Such obsolete methods can result in incomplete, incorrect or obsolete data.
Companies need clear and up-to-date data on their assets. A powerful Asset Inventory Management solution can help the vulnerability management program succeed. It has detailed profile data per asset. Simply put, the more context a company has about each of its assets, the stronger its vulnerability analysis and prioritization will be.
2. Identifying Vulnerabilities
Companies need robust identification and tracking mechanisms for vulnerabilities. They can choose multiple platforms, agencies and services that conduct penetration testing to discover vulnerabilities within their organization safely and securely.
Most companies today, however, rely on readily available databases to identify and track vulnerabilities. The recent Verizon Data Breach report revealed that 99.9% of vulnerabilities exploited in attacks were compromised more than a year after being published. Needless to add, this proves there’s a significant delay involved in the discovery of a vulnerability and any action taken to patch the same.
3. Vulnerability prioritization
As mentioned above, several organizations prioritize vulnerabilities based on their CVSS score and perform some level of asset importance classification within the process. Add to the dilemma is the discovery of hundreds or perhaps thousands of vulnerabilities on a regular basis.
These security threats can range wildly in their scope and potential damage. Hence, additional context becomes necessary to get an actual picture of the real risk across the IT environment that these vulnerabilities pose. Organizations should consider factors such as the exploitability or value of an asset, the correlation between the vulnerability and the availability of public exploits, attacks and malware actively targeting the detected vulnerability, or even the popularity of a vulnerability in social media conversations. Such aspects help arrange vulnerabilities according to their severity and urgency.
4. Remediation process
On average, organizations take more than 100 days to remediate a security vulnerability. Needless to add, this pace is exceptionally slow. The problems and complexities multiply exponentially owing to zero-day exploits and the speed and agility at which malware developers operate. Simply put, at the pace companies address or fix vulnerabilities, attackers gain a large window of opportunity spanning several weeks.
There are, however, ways to enable better, efficient, and speedier management through automation. It can significantly improve the process and influence user behaviour. While each organization has to develop methods that best suite its work environment, simple tasks such as establishing deadlines and automating reminder notifications when a deadline is approaching have been known to improve the communication process between Security and DevOps/Sysadmin teams while addressing vulnerabilities.
5. Tracking vulnerability management process
Many cybersecurity experts working to safeguard Industrial Control Systems (ICS) or similar critical infrastructure, face difficulties while managing a full vulnerability management process from beginning till end. Oftentimes, companies conduct one-time or infrequent vulnerability assessments to safe time and manpower.
Once a single loop of a vulnerability assessment is complete, it requires a separate tool or internal manpower to take remedial action. Needless to add, it is quite easy to lose track of the process when there are many vulnerabilities that need immediate attention.
Top 6 best practices for Vulnerability Management
Vulnerability Management might appear complex. However, it is extremely necessary and relevant in today’s world where there’s no such thing as a secure network. Developers can, however, safeguard their applications by following a set of Vulnerability Management best practices.
1. Prioritize scanning hosts more frequently than networks
Scores of new vulnerabilities are discovered nearly every week. This raises multiple challenges for security teams. One of the biggest and sometimes most concerning is improper prioritization. Cybersecurity teams must prioritize vulnerabilities based upon the risks they pose to the business assets. Basically, flaws that are most dangerous to their business assets must be prioritized for remediation.
Secondly, network-based scanners add significant overhead as they scan through network services. They also require attention for tasks such as configuring settings, opening firewall ports and so on. On the other hand, host-based scans, do not trawl through the entire network. They also eliminate network overhead. Taking a more continuous scanning approach is easier on the resources and even more effective.
2. Log monitor to uncover growing threats of shadow IT
Large organizations, and particularly those who have sensitive platforms, have multiple teams working on vulnerability remediation. The security team typically has responsibility for detecting vulnerabilities, but it is the IT or DevOps team that usually remediates. Needless to add, there has to be a reliable and effective collaboration between multiple teams.
For a closed detection-remediation loop, enterprises need a well-maintained log monitor that not only keeps a track of growing threats but also serves as a progress monitor for remedial actions. Each team involved in vulnerability detection and defensive actions has its own specialized stacks of databases, processes and tools. However, companies must integrate all the separate platforms into a centralized vulnerability management platform with the capacity to orchestrate remediation.
Regular training sessions are at the heart of any vulnerability management. It involves the development of skillsets and using vulnerability management metrics that improve and fine-tune detection, prioritization and remediation processes.
Employees must have ample and updated knowledge of quantitative metrics such as a vulnerability count, average CVSS scores of detected vulnerabilities, number of scans run or vendor-based criticality. However, they must also be aware of qualitative metrics such as coverage, vulnerability dwell time, the average number of vulnerabilities per asset over time and to what extent SLAs are being met.
4. Incident response plan in place
For Vulnerability Management to be effective, the processes involved have to be sustainable and repeatable. Security breaches are never a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’. Hence organizations must have a list of actions or response plan in place in the event of a security breach. An incident response plan will help significantly cut down the time required to mitigate risk or attack, deploy countermeasures, and safeguard digital assets.
5. Scanning reporting and remediation policies
Performing regular scanning and maintaining a log about the processes is critical to keep networks secured from known vulnerabilities. Many organizations must go through their change control process, which involves obtaining permission to scan and communicating properly with business and technical owners before scans can be deployed.
Companies must generate reports and provide them to the right people. The reports are necessary in order to have the vulnerabilities identified in the scans remediated. Speaking of remediation, it is far more than merely patching a vulnerability. The process also includes disabling or uninstalling services, uninstalling or upgrading software, deploying new security components, modifying configurations, changing the asset’s virtual location, or completely taking out the asset from the equation.
6. Repeat vulnerabilities management practice
It is important to note that the success of any vulnerability management product or program is to consider it as a continuous approach. Companies must not practice it one or two times every six months but during the whole year. Organizations must always try to avoid “vulnerability debt,” which will leave the enterprise networks susceptible and weak to potential cyberattacks.
Any vulnerability management program must be able to identify when assets, responsible parties, scan or reporting must be tweaked, altered, etc. Basically, it is critical to ensure the momentum is maintained.
How Appknox can help you with vulnerability management?
Appknox is an on-demand mobile application security platform designed to help Developers, Security Researchers, and Enterprises to build a safe and secure mobile ecosystem using a system plus a human approach to outsmart hackers.
Appknox approaches security testing with an automated vulnerability assessment which includes Static, Dynamic, and API testing.
Some of the salient features of Appknox’s security platforms:
- Best in class CXO dashboard which details vulnerabilities and segregates them based on priority and CVSS score.
- Appknox continuously tracks apps for all compliance gaps such as HIPAA, PCI, GDPR, OWASP, CCPA, VPPA.
- Less than 1 per cent ‘False positives’ and 0.0001 % False Negatives
- Shorten SDLC with Appknox CI-CD toolchain
- Real DAST for validating vulnerabilities using a real device like an end-user
- Attack simulation to identify potential and unforeseen threats
- Appknox platform supports over 35+ programming languages and environments
- 24/7 chat and remediation support.
- Exceptional speed of analysis and remediation