Vulnerability Management: Get Visibility into Your Security Risks Today

By 2031, ransomware attacks against businesses will occur every two seconds.

The threat of malicious cyber actors is an omnipresent danger to organizations, making it imperative for them to take immediate steps to secure their networks, data and systems and remedy outstanding flaws. 

Vulnerability management plays a critical role in cybersecurity as it helps organizations follow a programmatic approach to identifying security control gaps and asset risks that may be exploited so that they can formulate preemptive defensive and remediation measures. 

Vulnerability Management: What Is It?

In its optimal state, a vulnerability management program is used by organizations to identify, classify, prioritize, and remediate any potential weakness in their assets, applications, and security controls. Organizations can significantly reduce their risk of a successful breach by rapidly patching vulnerabilities or by finding adequate workarounds until patches can occur. To do either of these actions successfully, teams must be aware of their attack surface, meaning all of their current assets (e.g.hardware, software, and applications) and outstanding vulnerabilities that could potentially be exploited. This awareness is brought about by vulnerability scans and penetration tests. 

A Common Confusion:Vulnerability Management, Vulnerability Scanning, and Penetration Tests 

Many conflate vulnerability management, scanning, and assessment. However, the latter two  are distinct steps in the scope of a vulnerability management program. Vulnerability management is a comprehensive approach to identifying, analyzing, and remedying any weaknesses found; while vulnerability scanning is a technical process embedded in tools utilized in a continuous and sometimes automated fashion to detect potential risk exposures across an organization’s network, hardware, software, and systems. Subsequently, scanning results are taken into consideration in thorough, manual exploitation exercises known as   penetration tests. Together, vulnerability scans and penetration tests validate the importance and criticality of an organization's exposure to external threats.

Vulnerability Management: Step-by-Step

Vulnerability Management typically includes 6 cyclical-steps:

1) Asset discovery and inventory: First, Security teams must carefully assess all network-connected assets and generate a detailed inventory for further review. This requires a thorough understanding of which hardware, software, and applications are installed on each system as well as what could be vulnerable to attack.

2) Vulnerability scanning: Following discovery and inventory, Security teams use vulnerability scanners to detect and recognize any probable vulnerabilities in the system. This can include misconfigurations or missing patches which could be exploited by harmful actors.

3) Risk assessment and penetration tests: With the findings from vulnerability scanning, Security teams can further evaluate and organize the dangers linked with each finding. Risk assessment and manual penetration tests help determine which vulnerabilities are most significant and should be prioritized.

4) Remediation, Testing and Validation: Security teams prioritize vulnerabilities according to the potential severity of exploitation. Following prioritization, results are shared with the relevant IT Operations teams to trigger their patch management program. A patch management program is executed through specialized software to identify, acquire, test and install software patches or code changes. Provided that IT Operations teams patch, then Security teams can test and validate. If IT Operations delay patches (exceptions), then Security teams must offset the risks of patch exceptions with workarounds, which often require acquiring more security tools or reconfiguring outstanding ones to meet expectations in risk reduction.

5) Timely Reporting: When necessary, Security teams must be prepared to report on the organization’s risk posture. Any Security improvements in remediating vulnerabilities and otherwise enacting workarounds should be reported.

6) Monitoring: Organizations must stay vigilant to ensure the ongoing safety of their network by constantly monitoring IT infrastructure for any potential threats or vulnerabilities. Vulnerability management necessitates continuous surveillance and analysis of suspicious activity.

How Does Vulnerability Management Go Wrong? 

Across many software systems, vulnerabilities are typically rated according to the CVSS vulnerability score. The Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) is a method created by NIST used to supply a general, qualitative measure of severity for every reported vulnerability. However, though the CVSS score provides a measure for severity, NIST openly states that CVSS is not a measure of risk. That being said, where vulnerability management goes wrong is when organizations conflate the CVSS score as a measure of their risk. Risk is a business-specific calculation that requires variables beyond the CVSS calculation, which include threat specificity, probability, and exploitation impact. For organizations to meet a good enough risk calculation, all parts must satisfy; so threat intelligence feeds, asset classification, and security control health posture are required inputs. These inputs generally define what is known to be “risk-based” vulnerability management. Risk-based vulnerability management considers critical factors such as asset sensitivity, exploitability, and technology trends to prioritize the most important vulnerabilities first while efficiently tackling other vulnerabilities in an organized manner. This approach allows businesses to save resources by focusing on the highest priority issues initially before addressing any others.

ULTRA RED Adds The Asset Discovery and Threat Lens

With ULTRA RED, Security organizations gain a full and up to date inventory of Internet exposed assets and services, organized in ways that make it useful to both security and compliance teams. In this way, ULTRA RED sets the scene for vulnerability and patch management. ULTRA RED’s continuous external asset and service discovery also extends to extensive supply chain visibility. This ability addresses potential third-party risks and facilitates constructive conversation with external providers to mature security to build trust. For any exposed assets, ULTRA RED correlates them to information within industry leading repositories of DarkNet and open-source intelligence to detect any potentially leaked information which includes credentials, PII and sensitive information. 

Compared to other attack surface management solutions, ULTRA RED's automatic vector detection and deep validation greatly improves the productivity of cyber teams by saving untold hours in investigating false positives and validating serious vulnerabilities present in all discovered assets. When vulnerability intelligence is enriched by threat intelligence, Security teams can get to remediating the vulnerabilities that matter with speed and accuracy. Additionally, with a reduced signal to noise ratio, Security teams eliminate redundancy and increase efficiency in vulnerability and patch management. 

To close the loop on vulnerability management, full documentation and remediation guidance from the ULTRA RED platform strengthens collaboration between security and IT operations to dramatically cut the mean-time-to-remediation of all potentially impactful and exploitable vulnerabilities. 

Improving Vulnerability Management 

Simply put, if left unchecked, vulnerabilities can lead malicious actors into confidential data or cause disruption and destruction of systems. Mitigating the risk of infiltration with a diligent risk-based vulnerability management program is integral to improving organizational resilience and maturing regulatory compliance. 

With the addition of strong asset discovery and threat intelligence tools, Security teams can accurately assess what vulnerabilities matter the most and where security priorities should be placed. It’s time for traditional vulnerability management programs to graduate to risk-based vulnerability management with an added threat lens. ULTRA RED brings you there.   

Learn more here.