Expanding Your Vulnerability Management Program to Include CTEM

In today's rapidly evolving digital landscape, enterprises must prioritize cybersecurity to protect their information and assets. In the 21st century, technology is advancing at an unprecedented rate, which has led to the development of far more sophisticated and dangerous cyber threat tactics. Vulnerability Management has long been a critical component of cybersecurity, but more than the program is needed to face modern threats. Organizations must adopt a more proactive and continuous approach to effectively combat the ever-changing cyber threats to supplement their current Vulnerability Management Programs (VMPs). The ideal product to meet organizations' modern cybersecurity needs is Gartner's Continuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM), a multi-tool platform designed to protect your most important assets based on rigorous threat and vulnerability analysis.

This blog will discuss the VMP expansion process, including incorporating the CTEM framework and its foundational principles into an existing VMP. After following this guidance, you will be better equipped to identify and remediate vulnerabilities to prevent cyberattacks. 

Understanding VMPs:

A VMP is a systematic approach to identifying, assessing, and addressing vulnerabilities within an organization's IT infrastructure. VMP's goal is to minimize cyberattack risk by proactively identifying system flaws and weaknesses and then addressing them before cybercriminals can exploit them. A successful VMP typically includes the following key components, which include: 

Asset Inventory: A comprehensive list of an organization's hardware and software assets

Vulnerability Scanning: Regular scanning of assets to identify vulnerabilities.

Vulnerability Assessment: Analysis of identified vulnerabilities to determine their risk level and potential impact.

Remediation: Prioritization and addressing of vulnerabilities based on assessment results.

Verification: Ensuring that vulnerabilities have been appropriately remediated and documented.

As we previously discussed, a VMP can mitigate an organization's risk of cyberattack. However, the rapidly evolving nature of cyber threats and vulnerabilities demands a more comprehensive and robust approach, which we will now discuss.

Introduction to Gartner's Continuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM) Framework:

Gartner's CTEM framework is an extension of traditional vulnerability management approaches. It calls for organizations to continuously monitor and manage their cyber threat exposure by implementing a more proactive, versatile, and risk-based approach. To fully understand Gartner's CTEM method, it is crucial to understand the five-step cycle Gartner has developed:

Scoping: For most organizations, the attack surface will always be greater than the scope a VMP could effectively handle. To compensate for this, organizational leadership must identify an "initial scope" of crucial assets for the CTEM initiative to focus on.

Discovery: During this step, security teams will scrutinize assets identified in the scoping process and assign them risk profiles. The goal of discovery is to provide an additional, more rigorous search for potentially overlooked exposures in the scoping process.

Prioritization: The goal is to identify the organization's highest-valued, most vulnerable assets and focus threat prevention resource strength on those assets.

Validation: During this principle, organization security teams will understand how a potential adversary would attempt a cyberattack. This process involves a series of exercises where organizational leadership will be able to test their current threat management program's effectiveness. This step has three objectives: Assess attack success likelihood, Estimate the highest potential impact, and identify if current processes to respond and remediate a successful attack are sufficient.

Mobilization: This step encourages smooth communication between security teams and organizational leadership to implement the appropriate measures based on findings from the other four CTEM core principles. For mobilization to be successful, organizations must develop effective cross-team workflows and well-defined communication standards to limit resource loss during leadership approval procedures.

Now that we've discussed the CTEM framework principles, let's now delve into procedures for adopting the program into your existing VMP. 

How to adopt the CTEM framework into your existing VMP:

Adopt a threat-centric approach: One of the critical principles of CTEM is adopting a threat-centric approach to cybersecurity, meaning instead of focusing solely on vulnerabilities; organizations should also focus on understanding the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) of potential attackers. To adopt a threat-centric approach, organizations should conduct regular threat modeling exercises to identify potential threats and attack vectors, and these would involve understanding the motives, goals, and capabilities of potential attackers and identifying the assets and data that are most valuable and vulnerable to attack. Once potential threat and attack vector identification are complete, organizations should implement controls and countermeasures to mitigate these risks. These countermeasures may include implementing security controls such as firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, and endpoint protection, as well as implementing security policies and procedures to ensure employees are following best practices for cybersecurity.

Implement continuous monitoring and assessment: Another critical principle of CTEM is implementing continuous monitoring and assessment of an organization's IT infrastructure and systems. This involves monitoring network traffic, logs, and other data sources to detect anomalies and potential security incidents. Organizations should implement a security information and event management (SIEM) system for continuous monitoring and assessment. A SIEM system collects and analyzes security data across an organization's IT infrastructure and systems, providing real-time visibility into potential security incidents. In addition to a SIEM system, organizations should implement other monitoring and assessment tools, such as vulnerability scanners, endpoint detection and response (EDR) systems, and threat intelligence feeds. These tools can help identify potential threats and vulnerabilities, allowing organizations to take proactive measures to mitigate these risks.

Foster collaboration and sharing: Another principle of CTEM is fostering collaboration and sharing threat intelligence across different teams and organizations. This allows organizations to leverage the knowledge and expertise of others to protect themselves against cyber threats.

To foster collaboration and sharing, organizations should participate in information-sharing communities, such as the Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs), which allow organizations to share threat intelligence and best practices. Organizations should also participate in cybersecurity exercises, such as tabletop exercises and red team/blue team exercises, to practice responding to potential cyberattacks.

Embrace continuous improvement: CTEM is a continuous improvement process constantly evolving to adapt to new threats and attack vectors. This requires a culture of continuous learning and advancement within the organization. To embrace continuous improvement, organizations should conduct regular assessments of their cybersecurity program to identify areas for improvement. This might include conducting vulnerability assessments, penetration testing exercises, and other security testing to identify potential vulnerabilities and attack vectors. Organizations should also invest in training and awareness programs to ensure employees follow proper cybersecurity practices. These exercise topics may include password security, phishing awareness, and social engineering training.

As Cyber threats evolve exponentially, enterprises must expand their cybersecurity programs to include new frameworks like Gartner's CTEM. By adopting a modern threat-centric approach to cybersecurity, implementing continuous monitoring and assessment, fostering collaborative business environments, and embracing continuous improvement, organizations can better protect themselves against cyber threats and reduce their risk of costly security incidents.

Request a free demo here to learn more about ULTRA RED and how the CTEM program can expand and enhance your existing cyber threat management capabilities.