As the threat landscape around us continues to grow increasingly sophisticated, enterprises need to look for ways to ramp up on security and seek to break the barriers laid out by the conventional practices of cybersecurity- which have proven to be both ineffective and time-intensive.
A cybersecurity practice that has remained in the spotlight over the course of recent years is vulnerability management. For most enterprises and individuals, vulnerability management starts and ends at scanning tools- which is a dangerous approach that actually causes more harm than good. Usually, companies are firm in their belief that investing in an “industry-favorite” vulnerability scanner will effectively enable them to better assess, and manage the threats facing them, which could not be further away from the reality of the situation.
The primary reason as to why most organizations fail to hit the mark as far as effective vulnerability management is concerned is simple- companies usually have a pretty skewed idea of what vulnerability management is, in the first place. For most enterprises, the entire notion of vulnerability management revolves around scanning an organization’s network for any threats.
The greatest flaw with this definition of vulnerability management is that it overlooks crucial aspects of vulnerability management, which includes high-level processes such as the discovery, reporting, and prioritization of vulnerabilities, along with formulating effective responses to the discovered threats. In addition to these four key aspects, a strong vulnerability management framework tends to focus more on the larger cybersecurity picture and works in a cyclic manner, where one sub-process flows naturally into the next, which ultimately results in the reduction of business risk.
Having said that, however, there’s a significant portion of companies that, in the setting-up of their vulnerability management tools, create problems that can sabotage their vulnerability management framework, before it has even finished being set up. In order to ease the tedious process of setting up a vulnerability management program for our readers, we’ve listed some of the most common problems that enterprises face, below.
Problem #1- Poor prioritization of threats
As we’ve already discussed above, one of the key components of effective vulnerability management revolves around prioritization. Unfortunately, however, the poor prioritization of threats is one of the most common problems encountered by enterprises while initiating their vulnerability management tools and scanners.
When it comes to prioritizing certain threats and vulnerabilities, security teams need to follow a certain set of steps within their vulnerability management protocol. To prevent certain vulnerabilities, the security teams can consider using a VPN as it encrypts internet traffic and provides protection from snooping eyes. A standard framework, that produces highly satisfactory cybersecurity results, dictates that companies first ‘discover’ threats, which is followed by the prioritization of assets, which is then followed by an in-depth assessment of the discovered threats and vulnerabilities.
Unlike the first three steps of the vulnerability management procedure, the latter half of the steps revolve around the reporting, remediation, and verification of the threats faced by the enterprise. Most organizations, however, tend to skip straight from ‘discovery’ part of the framework to remediation, while foregoing crucial elements such as threat prioritization, and reporting.
The complete or partial failure to prioritize assets can often have devastating consequences for an enterprise since cybersecurity teams end up devoting the same amount of time and labor to otherwise menial, or routine tasks. Moreover, the poor prioritization of threats and vulnerabilities is bound to result in the failure of the vulnerability management program since the same threats will arise month after month since security teams will be preoccupied with the remediation of other issues.
Although the insufficient prioritization of assets might feel quite similar to being stuck in an endless cycle of failure, enterprises can actually solve the problems resulting as a result of poor prioritization, by conducting a thorough analysis of the results received from the scan. After companies have a clear idea of the threats facing them, they need to assess and see which of the assets require weekly and monthly scans.
After the prioritization of assets has been completed, enterprises can devote their cybersecurity resources and personnel that require it the most. Not only does this enable security teams to formulate fixes more quickly, but it also enables companies to invest effectively, which is on fixes that actually require the resources, instead of the mindless dedication of assets to threats that don’t require it.
Problem #2- A lack of structure and organization within IT teams
A rather critical mistake that enterprises make with their vulnerability management programs, that often gets thrown under the radar, is a sheer lack of organization and structure within their IT teams.
As far as vulnerability management programs are concerned, each individual concerned with the tedious task of upholding an organization’s security needs to have a clear set of instructions as to the requirements and limitations of their role within the vulnerability management framework. Only after each individual in an IT team has a clear-cut idea of the specifics of their role, can an organization hope for effective vulnerability management.
Unfortunately, however, most teams tasked with vulnerability management fail to formulate and run effective programs since their vision is highly limited, and usually tends to focus solely on the scanning element of vulnerability management. To add the cherry on top, we’ve seen too many cybersecurity specialists who tend to forget how crucial teamwork is in the proper execution of projects.
When it comes to the effective execution of vulnerability management programs, the most important step that organizations can take is setting long and short-term goals, along with defining clear policies, particularly as far as ownership is concerned. While setting up the program, security teams need to dedicate time to answering important questions concerning each person’s role, and what the implementation of a vulnerability management program hopes to accomplish.
Problem #3- Inattention to maintenance
The last mistake that we’ve chosen to highlight is one that occurs quite frequently- the lack of defined maintenance windows, which can prove to be fatal for remediation teams. The unavailability of maintenance windows, combined with the use of ad hoc maintenance windows to patch servers, can result in devastating consequences for your vulnerability management program.
Unfortunately, many enterprises tend to overlook the importance of a dedicated maintenance period and fail to allocate the required resources to the patching and rebooting of the systems in use. Additionally, enterprises also need to rely on a robust patching platform to ensure that the vulnerabilities they’ve fixed don’t repeat themselves.
At the end of the article, we can only hope that we’ve brought our reader’s attention to some of the most common problems encountered in the setting of a robust vulnerability management program within an organization’s cybersecurity infrastructure.
In the ever-evolving threat landscape of today, and the growing reliance of enterprises on cybersecurity tools- vulnerability management is no longer another “IT expense,” rather it is a crucial aspect of survival in the current digital landscape.