Cyber technology advancements have also given rise to new vulnerabilities and attackers who like to exploit them. Software and hardware becoming obsolete has brought forth the challenge of protecting unpatched systems and weak network designs.
According to Verizon’s Data Breach Report published in 2023, 5% of breaches are exploited vulnerabilities. This is considerably less compared to the 7% last year but still a major concern. As an organization, it is essential to single out these vulnerabilities and ensure complete protection of all digital assets.
To establish a secured digital infrastructure, you may wonder how to build a vulnerability management program. Read on as we provide you with in-depth insight into all the ways you can build an effective vulnerability management program to save your organization from sensitive data loss, future financial losses, and any other mishaps.
What is a Vulnerability Management Program?
Before we proceed, you need to know the vulnerability management program (VMP) definition and what it means for you. It is a framework that actively helps identify and alleviate potential vulnerabilities in your company’s cloud infrastructure.
An efficient threat vulnerability management program scans all your digital assets, including websites, applications, internal and external network infrastructure, computers, and mobile devices. This full-scale approach identifies vulnerabilities in all points of entry to your IT system, thus helping to actively reduce all cyber threats to your organization.
Benefits of Vulnerability Management Program
The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an urgent need to digitize companies around the world. It also created an extended playground for cyber attackers and threat actors. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC), the pandemic itself has caused cybercrime to grow by 600%.
Ransomware, a major concern for companies, has had a steep growth, with one attack occurring every 11 seconds, resulting in a total damage of $20 billion in 2021. This is where VMP comes in with its benefits:
- Premium Security and Risk Reduction: With businesses and government organizations being prime targets for cyber attacks, VMPs help you secure your digital assets and reduce risks.
- Helps in Achieving Compliance: Minimum risks and a safeguarded system are also something that you will require to satisfy industry standards and attain compliance, which can boost business.
- Protection of Data: Cyber Vulnerability Management Programs can also help you to protect essential company data.
- Protection from Legal, Financial, and Reputational Damage: It helps to ward off any chances of future reputation damage, legal challenges, or other cost-bearing harm to your company’s infrastructure.
- Strategising Security Investments: Data from a VMP can assist you in strategizing your company’s investments for the right equipment to secure your cyberspace.
Limitations of Traditional Vulnerability Management Tools
Traditional vulnerability management tools are easily available on the Internet and are a go-to option for many individuals and companies. They are certainly very easy to use but have their own drawbacks:
- Limited Threat Detection Radar: Average VM tools are programmed only to identify threats that are available in the company’s database. They are not very effective when it comes to identifying potential points of vulnerabilities that come from external sources or other network points that are not included in the database itself.
- Inefficient in Marking Exploitable Vulnerabilities: Conventional VM tools are also not capable enough to identify vulnerabilities that can cause harm to your infrastructure. According to Gartner, 8000 vulnerabilities are disclosed yearly, of which only 12.5% are exploited. This data tells us that it is more important to find an exploitable vulnerability rather than a vulnerability that is highly ranked by a traditional VM tool.
- Not a Complete Security Solution: A normal VM tool that you get from the internet gives off a false sense of security. There might still be vulnerabilities out there that can only be identified using vulnerability management programs catered to your IT environment.
8 Steps To Build an Effective Vulnerability Management Program
Building an efficient vulnerability management program is a multi-segmented process that requires you to set up effective protection layers and test them ritually. Follow the eight steps outlined below to get all-round protection from threat actors.
Create a List of All Your IT Assets
Creating an inventory of all your tech gears and devices is crucial to start. Creating a structured map of all your devices connected to the network also makes it easy for you to identify any potentially susceptible devices or areas. Examples of such devices include cell phones, laptops, and even the location of your data centers.
You mustn’t exclude any devices, even if they seem redundant to you. Outdated assets that remain connected to the network can prove to be the most vulnerable points of entry for any attacker. It is best to keep your system updated according to the latest industry regulations to help ensure a competent vulnerability management system.
Carry Out Penetration Testing
The best way to know whether your defenses are strong enough to fend off attacks is to try and penetrate them yourself. Having a security expert attempt to break through your security systems will greatly help you to understand how effective it is.
Testing your defenses helps you to hit two birds with one stone. First, it lets you know what possible vulnerabilities you might have in your existing security environment. Second, you benefit from the insight of an industry expert on how efficient your system is and whether you require any investments to fortify the framework.
Carrying out vulnerability scans through your IT asset map and conducting pen testing will help you identify potential vulnerabilities. Once you have a list of them, it is best to classify the problems per their severity.
Marking them from high risk to low risk will allow you to best your approach to mitigate these weak spots in your network. Constant scanning of your security system is a necessity for this aspect to work. This step can turn out to be the most effective way for you to ensure a secure cyberspace.
Implementing Automated Technology to Tackle Vulnerabilities
Automating your system to counter vulnerabilities can be a game changer for you. Automated technology can detect vulnerabilities and roll out the required process to mitigate them faster. This will allow you to have an edge over cyber attackers by remaining ahead of them.
Another positive of being guarded by an automated vulnerability manager is the availability of scheduling system scans and getting regular reports on vulnerability management. Vulnerability Management systems like the one offered by CloudDefense.AI help you prioritize vulnerabilities based on the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) scores and make it easier to counter any fragility in the framework.
Make an Effective Patching Schedule
Software has its vulnerabilities as well, and with time, threat actors manage to penetrate them. Keeping your software updated with the latest security patches can help you to minimize that risk. You can achieve this easily by creating a patch schedule based on data from your software vendor.
Software updates are released by third-party vendors and are known to create operational issues. It is wise to test out the update in a parallel environment before rolling it out in your system. This will ensure the smooth functioning of your business.
Staying Up to Date with Trending Threats in the Industry
The industry is the best source of intel on any potential vulnerability that you might experience. Stay in touch with intel reports from security experts in the industry. These reports can help to mitigate existing vulnerabilities before they are exploited.
Knowing the latest exploitations in the industry can give you enough time to set up defenses. Threat intelligence, when teamed with an efficient vulnerability management plan, can help to create a smooth security management system for your organization.
Add Compliance Clause for Third-Party Vendors
Third-party vendors integrated into your network pose the most risk to your IT framework. Threats or vulnerabilities in your vendors’ networks can easily penetrate your system as well. This can cause disruptions in the supply chain and create operational issues.
The only way to minimize threats coming from third-party vendors is by ensuring that they follow vulnerability management program best practices in their respective institutions. Working with a company that is compliant with cybersecurity regulations will, in turn, ease your task.
Employee Best Practices for Security
It is a fallacy to believe that only the devices and applications that you possess are vulnerable to attacks. People who work in your company are just as vulnerable. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to state that your employees are the most vulnerable points of access to your network for any hacker out there.
Having a state-of-the-art cyber security system is of no use if your staff mistakenly lets an intruder into your system. Training your team on security best practices and keeping them updated with any potential threat can help reduce human errors. This will also allow your employees to identify known threats and report them to the security team for rapid action.
How to Achieve Best-In-Class Status for Your Vulnerability Management Programs?
A goal for any security team would be to implement a vulnerability management process that achieves best-in-class status. This is attainable by simply following a set of rules:
- Consider using vulnerability metrics for assessing risks. This will also help you to measure how successful your VMP is.
- Make sure your security measures follow the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) compliance requirements. Compliance requirements work as a guideline to identify weak spots in the framework and strengthen them.
- Last, you need to keep the C-level executives of your organization in the loop by presenting timely reports of the security situation. Keeping them updated can assist you in getting the required resources needed to diminish any vulnerabilities.
How to Avoid Common Mistakes While Developing an Effective Vulnerability Management Program?
Lapses in security measures can prove to be very critical for your company. We often make mistakes that affect the effectiveness of an enterprise vulnerability management program framework. Avoiding common mistakes like the ones stated below can help to deter that:
- Lacking Expertise in Managing Cybersecurity Systems: It is important to ensure that a security expert is a part of the company to monitor all cyber defenses.
- Not Implementing a Vulnerability Management Policy: Vulnerability Management Policies help to ensure the smooth operation of the security program. Setting up policies will help you stay compliant in the long run as well.
- Not Creating a Proper Inventory of All Equipment: A Vulnerability Management Program is only effective if all equipment in your organization is under its radar. Adding newly purchased assets to the repository helps the VMP to keep them patched.
- Zero Involvement from Company Leadership: For any project to run effectively, the top executives must be constantly updated. With a lack of active interest, the VMP can cease to exist without any resources to continue running.
- Assessing the Risks to Your Network: A clear understanding of your IT environment and the risks associated with it can be found using risk assessment measures. This is also a great way to get approval for your VMP from top management.
How can you prioritize vulnerabilities effectively?
A vulnerability can be easily prioritized by assessing the risks associated with it and determining how much of an impact it can have on your overall system.
Assessing how risky a vulnerability is can be determined by predicting the amount of damage it can cause if exploited. Additionally, the level of exploitation it offers an exploiter is also a key factor. Finally, the likelihood of such an attack happening can also help to prioritize the vulnerability.
How can you measure the effectiveness of your vulnerability management program?
The best ways to measure the effectiveness of a vulnerability management process are to conduct penetration testing and analyze data obtained from the VMP. A thorough analysis of the data obtained through vulnerability metrics will help assess how swiftly vulnerabilities are handled and give you an overview of the effectiveness of the VMP.
Securing your company’s cyberspace can often be a challenge, with new technologies entering the market every day. However, effectively testing your security measures, educating your staff on cyber threats, and using relevant tools can help tackle that easily.
Discard the idea that operating a vulnerability management system can disrupt company functionality. Instead, embrace that VMPs are a protective measure to ward off any future risks and prevent financial damage. Investing and effectively running a vulnerability management program will not only help secure the infrastructure but will ultimately boost business in the long run.