Manage Your Tech Vulnerability
Innovation produces technology vulnerabilities as an unfortunate side effect. When software companies release new updates, their code often contains weaknesses that hackers exploit. Software makers subsequently address these vulnerabilities by releasing a security patch. The cycle continues with each new software or hardware update.
Estimates suggest that hackers can penetrate approximately 93% of corporate networks. Organizations often fail to prioritize assessing and managing these network weaknesses. As a result, many suffer breaches due to inadequate vulnerability management.
61% of security vulnerabilities in corporate networks existed for more than 5 years.
Unpatched vulnerabilities in software code provide opportunities for various types of attacks, including ransomware attacks, account takeover, and other common cyberattacks.
Whenever a data breach gets described as an “exploit,” it refers to a hacker taking advantage of a vulnerability by writing malicious code to exploit these “loopholes.” This code allows them to elevate privileges, run system commands, or perform other dangerous network intrusions.
Reducing the risk of attacks requires implementing an effective vulnerability management process. It does not need to be complex. You can get started by following the steps we have outlined below.
Vulnerability Management Process
Step 1. Identify Your Assets
First, identify all the devices and software that you will need to assess. You’ll want to include all devices that connect to your network, including:
- IoT devices
- Cloud services
Many places offer vulnerable points, including the code for an operating system, a cloud platform, software, or firmware. Therefore, take the time to create a complete inventory of all systems and endpoints in your network.
This crucial first step allows you to determine the scope of your assessment by identifying what you need to include.
Step 2: Perform a Vulnerability Assessment
The next step to take is perform a vulnerability assessment, which an IT professional usually does using assessment software. This process may also include penetration testing.
During the assessment, the professional scans your systems for any known vulnerabilities. The assessment tool compares identified software versions against vulnerability databases.
For instance, suppose a vulnerability database lists a vulnerability in a particular version of Microsoft Exchange. In that case, if the assessment tool detects a server running that same version, it will identify it as a security weakness in your system.
Step 3: Prioritize Vulnerabilities by Threat Level
The assessment results provides a roadmap for mitigating network vulnerabilities. There will likely be several vulnerabilities, and not all of them are equally severe. The next step is to prioritize which ones to address first.
Experts usually prioritize the most severe vulnerabilities at the top of the list. Many vulnerability assessment tools use the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS), which rates vulnerabilities on a severity scale from low to critical.
Prioritize vulnerabilities based on your business needs. For example, if software is only used occasionally on one device, you may consider it a lower priority to address. However, a vulnerability in software used on all employee devices gets ranked as a high priority.
Step 4: Remediate Vulnerabilities
Remediate vulnerabilities in accordance with the prioritized list. Remediation often involves applying an issued update or security patch. However, upgrading hardware may also be necessary if too old to be updated.
Another form of remediation used got named “ringfencing”, which involves isolating an application or device from the rest of the network. Ringfencing becomes necessary if a scan reveals a vulnerability for which a patch does not yet exist.
Improving advanced threat protection settings in your network also offers helpful solutions. Once addressed the vulnerabilities, you should verify that the fixes worked correctly.
Step 5: Document Activities
Documenting the vulnerability assessment and management process is crucial for both cybersecurity needs and compliance.
You should document when the last vulnerability assessment was performed and all the steps taken to remediate each vulnerability. Keeping these logs will be essential in the event of a future breach and can also inform the next vulnerability assessment.
Step 6. Schedule Your Next Vulnerability Assessment Scan
Vulnerability management is an ongoing process, even after completing a round of vulnerability assessment and mitigation.
In 2022, more than 22,500 new vulnerabilities were documented. Developers continue to update their software regularly, which can introduce new vulnerabilities into your network.
Having a schedule for regular vulnerability assessments is a best practice. The cycle of assessment, prioritization, mitigation, and documentation should be ongoing to fortify your network against cyberattacks and remove one of the primary enablers of hackers.
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