Cyber-attacks are rapidly growing in number and in threat as far as modern day business environments are concerned. That is the reason why businesses are encouraged to keep an eye on the loopholes that may be leveraged for such attacks. Those cyber criminals only need small gaps to execute attack. Imagine how security flaws in operating systems and applications can lead to security breaches and exploits. These kinds of mishaps could lead to exposure of confidential information, loss of data, non-availability and system compromise. Now, this is where the concept of vulnerability management comes into the bigger picture of cyber security. This article introduces the concept of vulnerability management (VM) while also giving an overview of how to design and implement a successful VM in the organization.
What is Vulnerability Management?
The first term that we perhaps need to define before moving forward is vulnerability. In simple terms, it can be defined as a weakness of assets – in some cases, a group of assets that can be exploited by threats. Vulnerability is not just a technical issue as it can be scaled to weaknesses in policies and processes that can present channels for security violation. So Vulnerability Management could be seen as the counter measure to vulnerability. In other words, it is the continuous process of identifying, classifying, remediating and alleviating susceptibilities. This term is sometimes confused with vulnerability scanning which is the process of using computer software to identify flaws in computer infrastructure, applications and networks. Although the two are related, VM goes a step further to factor in aspects like remediation, risk acceptance etc.
Why Organizations Required Vulnerability Management?
Of course, prevention has always been far better than cure or rather, reactive measures may not really bail you out of current models of cyber-attacks. Talk of zero day attacks and worms that cannot afford you the time to deploy patches. In case you are having doubts about the value of vulnerability management then here are some few values that VM program will do to your organization:
- It will improve organization of IT assets and processes.
- It reduces risks thanks to proper allocation of controls.
- It will help in compliance with regulatory laws like HIPPA, SOX, PCI among others.
Implementing Vulnerability Management
Now, the question is how do you implement a VM in an organization? Well, these simple steps will guide you through vulnerability management process.
Step 1: Assessment Phase
This phase is principally the preparation phase. This is the phase whereby the necessary compliance and regulations for managing vulnerabilities in the industry are determined. In addition, it is important to define clearly the resources in the sense that some may belong to the organization while others will not. This will be well executed with a reliable asset management process. Some of the other key activities in this phase are identifying business objectives that warrant security intervention and assessing deployed infrastructure to get an overview of the security policies and risk management models.
Step 2: Vulnerability Scanning
This step entails using VM software to fetch for security flaws based on known flaws that is accompanied by reports of these findings. The great thing is that most of such tools are good in reporting vulnerabilities and their corresponding risk ratings.
Step 3: Assess Vulnerabilities
The next step is to assess the vulnerabilities to determine criticality and feasibility. It is also vital to analyze the vulnerability scan output in a bid to get rid of any false positives and other findings that may not prove useful. This is attained by working together with deploying vendor of vulnerability assessment tool deployed. It is important to note that despite the fact that prioritization and validation may consume more time, it is very vital in VM. This step will help you to plan and figure out which vulnerabilities are severe and call for immediate attention.
Step 4: Patch the System
This is one of the most critical steps in the process that refer to remediating highest risk systems first to maintain confidentiality, operational availability and integrity of the systems. You can take these three steps to accomplish a comprehensive patch management:
- Prepare patch packages that will update security and fix bugs for your systems.
- Conduct tests on the patch before deploying and ensure that you critically analyze the post implementation results in the form of compliance monitoring.
- Schedule automated patches with the help of software that will make deployment of patches, updates and any changes less costly.
Step 5: Status Report
After the patch has been deployed, the last step would be to assess if it was successful or not. This step comes in some sort of a re-scan using the scanning tools used in the initial steps above. Just make user that the configurations are also the same as before if you are to avoid errors. Reports should also be generated as before. This is the step where the key challenges to the organization’s security and progress made to solve them, are properly shown. This well reported by using relevant metrics that clearly indicate change in the organization.
Most organizations are still blind to the risks associated to the security breaches in information systems. As you might know, cyber security is a cat and mouse game where you must keep up pace with the pace of attackers. One-way of keeping up pace is to cut your risks thanks to a vulnerability management process. With a well-crafted process in place, your organization can get a yardstick hence a view of vulnerabilities that may be present in the systems. This way, remediation to reduce risks is made by the management from a well-advised standpoint. Keep in mind that introducing a new vulnerability management system can be tricky but by integrating important aspects, it is bound to succeed. Just make sure you have all relevant stakeholders involved if the process is to be smooth and seamless.