In today’s business environment, cybersecurity is more important than ever before. Unfortunately, vulnerabilities are a constant side effect of continual innovation. When software companies push new updates, there are often weaknesses in the code that hackers can exploit. Software developers address the vulnerabilities with a security patch, but the cycle continues with each update.
About 93% of corporate networks are susceptible to hacker penetration. Assessing and managing these network weaknesses is only sometimes a priority for organizations. Many suffer breaches because of poor security management.
61% of security vulnerabilities in corporate networks are over five years old.
Many attacks take advantage of unpatched vulnerabilities, such as ransomware, account hijacking, and other common attacks.
Whenever you see the term “exploit” when reading about a data breach, that’s an exploit of a vulnerability. Hackers write malicious code to take advantage of errors in the code that can allow them to elevate privileges or run system commands. This allows for some dangerous network intrusions.
One of the critical components of cybersecurity is vulnerability management, which involves identifying and mitigating potential weaknesses in your business technology infrastructure. Effective vulnerability management can help prevent data breaches, protect customer information, and safeguard your business operations. Today, we’ll outline six steps to effective vulnerability management for business technology.
Vulnerability Management Process
Step 1. Identify Your Assets
The first step in effective vulnerability management is to identify all the assets in your business technology infrastructure. This includes everything from hardware and software to networks and databases. Create an inventory of your assets and categorize them by importance so you know which ones are most critical to protect.
Security holes can appear in many places. Such as the code for an operating system, a cloud platform, software, or firmware. So, you’ll want a complete inventory of all systems and endpoints in your network, including:
- Desktop and laptop computers
- Smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices
- IoT devices like Amazon Echos, security cameras, and thermostats
- Network equipment
- Cloud services
This is an essential first step, so you will know what you need to include in the scope of your assessment.
Step 2: Perform a Vulnerability Assessment
Once you’ve identified your assets, conduct a risk assessment to identify potential issues. During the assessment, scan your systems for any known vulnerabilities. The assessment tool matches found software versions against security databases.
For example, a database may note that a version of Microsoft Exchange has an issue. If it detects that you have a server running that same version, it will report it as a found weakness in your security. Use this information to prioritize which security issues to address first.
Step 3: Prioritize Vulnerabilities by Threat Level
The vulnerability assessment results offer valuable insights into potential weaknesses within your network infrastructure. These insights form the basis of a comprehensive roadmap for mitigating security issues, enabling you to prioritize and address them systematically and efficiently.
Not all vulnerabilities are created equal, so ranking them by severity is critical. The Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS), a widely accepted rating system, can be employed to categorize security weaknesses based on their severity, ranging from low to critical.
Furthermore, as different vulnerabilities can have varying impacts on your business operations, it’s essential to rank them based on your unique business needs. Prioritizing high-severity security weaknesses that could pose significant risks to your operations is crucial.
Consider prioritizing weaknesses that could impact mission-critical applications or frequently-used software, regardless of their severity. By taking a strategic and business-oriented approach to vulnerability management, you can ensure that you’re effectively mitigating risks while minimizing potential impacts on your business operations.
Step 4: Remediate Vulnerabilities
After identifying and prioritizing weaknesses, it’s essential to take swift and effective action to remediate them. This typically involves applying updates and security patches and upgrading outdated hardware where necessary.
However, remediation may also require more nuanced solutions, such as ringfencing, which involves isolating an application or device from the rest of the network. This is particularly useful when there is an identified weakness without an available patch.
In addition to remediation measures, increasing advanced threat protection settings within your network can enhance your security posture further. Once you have remediated the vulnerabilities, confirming that the fixes have been successful is crucial.
Regularly testing your defenses and conducting assessments can help identify any potential weaknesses you may have missed, enabling you to address them promptly.
Step 5: Document Activities
Documenting the assessment and management process is essential for both cybersecurity needs and compliance requirements. It provides a record of your security posture. It can demonstrate your organization’s commitment to protecting critical assets from cyber threats.
To ensure that your documentation is comprehensive, it’s essential to record critical information, such as the date of the last vulnerability assessment and the steps taken to remediate each vulnerability. This information is crucial in the event of a breach, enabling you to identify and respond to any potential threats quickly.
Moreover, these records can also inform future vulnerability assessments, providing valuable insights into the effectiveness of your security measures and identifying areas for improvement. By continually evaluating and refining your vulnerability management process, you can help to ensure that your organization remains resilient to evolving cyber threats.
Step 6. Schedule Your Next Vulnerability Assessment Scan
Vulnerability management is not a one-time event but rather an ongoing process that requires constant attention and vigilance. Regular vulnerability assessments are critical to ensuring that your organization remains protected with the continuous evolution of software and the increasing sophistication of cyber threats.
In 2022 alone, over 22,500 new vulnerabilities were documented, underscoring the need for ongoing assessments and mitigation measures. Even as developers work on updating and patching their software, new vulnerabilities are inevitable, making it essential to remain vigilant and proactive in your vulnerability management efforts.
To ensure that your network remains secure, it’s best practice to establish a schedule for regular vulnerability assessments. This cycle of assessment, prioritization, mitigation, and documentation should be an ongoing process, enabling you to identify and address vulnerabilities before hackers can exploit them.
Get Started with a Vulnerability Assessment
Take the first step towards effective vulnerability management. We can help you fortify your network against attacks. Give us a call today to schedule a vulnerability assessment to get started.