Vulnerability Management: Why Your Attack Surface Is Critical?

What is a Vulnerability Management Program (VMP)? According to ULTRA-RED, a VMP is any collection of tools or resources organizations use to identify, prioritize, and remediate weaknesses in their assets, applications, and security controls to prevent a cyber breach. Every organization has some form of a VMP, ranging from simple ad hoc patching processes to an inclusion of more advanced technologies like automated vulnerability patching platforms. In order to fully understand how critical a VMP is to improve organizational security, it is imperative that Security practitioners understand the concept of the “Attack Surface”. 

The attack surface is the summation of an organization's digital assets (e.g., software, applications, IPs, domains) and the inherent vulnerabilities therein. The term “attack surface” is meant to symbolize the playing field upon which cyber threat actors can conduct malicious operations. Enterprise defenders are only able to defend what they know and can manage–for that reason, effective attack surface monitoring is both important and significant to organizational security. Any proper VMP is built on the foundation of attack surface awareness; however, this is no easy task. 

Due to the rapid adoption of new technologies, and the ongoing changes in the assets and their configuration, keeping track of an attack surface is a complex task. To tackle that, ULTRA-RED built the Continuous Threat Exposure Management (CTEM) Platform which directly enhances an organization’s Vulnerability Management Program through continuous attack surface visibility and threat remediation. 

The first and most critical step of a good VMP is to build a meticulous account and assessment of all network-connected assets. The UltraRed CTEM platform drives attack surface visibility with automated, continuous, and recursive discovery. Security organizations can rely on always being informed through the platform of their inventory accuracy. Sufficient knowledge of the attack surface can still be bittersweet. Security analysts are often overwhelmed by alerts and long lists of necessary remediations. Although a good vulnerability management program requires vulnerability prioritization, it’s not something that can be done manually without significant effort and time.  Any suitable Vulnerability Management Program will evaluate, assess and prioritize required mitigation steps based on exploitation risk level. For this reason, this is what ULTRA-RED CTEM leads with. ULTRA-RED combines vulnerability, exposure, and attack vector intelligence to enrich the context behind all organizational assets and prioritize vulnerabilities. 

Vulnerability intelligence illuminates the outstanding weaknesses in all assets, be they misconfigurations, missing patches, or outstanding vulnerabilities requiring workarounds. Exposure intelligence alerts Security teams of already-exposed assets and sensitive information to immediately initiate incident response (as necessary). Attack vector intelligence prepares Security analysts to prioritize their assets for remediation based on the most probable course of exploitation from the attacker’s perspective. Combined, all of this intelligence immediately prepares Security analysts to remediate or work around their weaknesses, which is paramount given the variability of the attack surface and the speed with which attackers are now moving to exploit organizations. The right confluence between time and intelligence is necessary for enterprise defenders to be successful in protecting their organization. This is what ULTRA-RED aims to equip Security practitioners with.  

Upon completing vulnerability prioritization (as required), IT Operations teams are in theory, properly enabled to deploy software updates and patches to the identified vulnerabilities. However, in practice, they require sufficient buy-in from accountable parties. A well-built Vulnerability Management Program will not only account for all assets known and unknown in an organization’s IT infrastructure, but it will also reinforce accountability across the organization for these assets. Without accountability, all modes for risk reduction will remain in limbo.  The UltraRed platform drives risk reduction to completion with its many bi-directional, streamlined integrations across IT Security Management (ITSM) and content collaboration platforms. From discovery to vulnerability prioritization and remediation, every accountable stakeholder is kept aware of where and how they must act to build organizational resilience. 

Up until this point, this process aims to eliminate detected weaknesses in an organization’s network and to minimize the attack surface. Before completing the Vulnerability Management Program cycle, some level of reassurance must exist that the work completed has truly reduced risks. To test the supposed improved state of organizational security, security analysts functions often deploy tools and processes to attempt to exploit organizational vulnerabilities. 

Most organizations will use pen testing-as-a-service, or otherwise deploy their red teams. These testing and assurance processes can also be time and resource consuming. In recent days, new tools like “Breach and Attack Simulation” or “Security Posture Validation” aim to reduce the amount of manual work dedicated to testing and reassurance. The ULTRA-RED CTEM platform includes “Breach and Attack Simulation” or “Security Posture Validation” to build not only for discovery, prioritization and remediation, but also assurance. In-platform, security analysts can conduct attack surface penetration testing to validate vulnerability patch system effectiveness. 

Provided that organizations follow through with discovery, prioritization, remediation, and assurance, then they will succeed in equipping organizational leadership with just the right amount of comprehensive knowledge regarding the organization’s true security posture and resilience. At ULTRA-RED, we believe that every organization has a unique attack surface, and to create the proper VMP for a specific organization, adequate analysis of the distinctive attack surface is essential. From building an accurate inventory of network-exposed assets, providing enriched vulnerability and threat intelligence to resolving vulnerabilities with sufficient assurance, ULTRA-REDCTEM equips Security teams to build for the most effective Vulnerability Management Program.

To learn more about the systematic approach to attack surface analysis and how to derive a modern and effective Vulnerability Management Program based on this analysis, request a free demo from ULTRA-RED here.