What is Vulnerability Management?
When an end-user receives a notification for an update to a software or application, it is not always to provide them with new features or improvements to performance. In many cases, these updates are pushed to our tech devices to patch security vulnerabilities. Enter vulnerability management. This practice is critical to hardware and network security. Vulnerability management is the proactive process of identifying and ridding tech of malicious behavior before it leads to a full-out breach. It does not always mean an attack is imminent, however. It can sometimes also be the identification of opportunities for improvement as it relates to security practices.
Vulnerability management is a continual process undertaken by IT with the help of specific software to cut off entry point access of cybercriminals. How does this apply to some of the most prominent industries in the world? What can you do to make sure you have a proactive plan in place? Continue reading as we provide you with best practices to start or improve your vulnerability management plan.
Vulnerability Management Across Industries
The healthcare industry is one of the most popular targets of cybercriminals today. Selling personal health information (PHI) on the black market can yield criminals a significant profit.
The big risk? Healthcare organizations utilize several pieces of technology to monitor, record and share data. These technologies could include self-help portals, remote appointment services (ex. video consultations), patient monitoring units (ex. heart rate monitor), and more. That means healthcare organizations, like hospitals, are often home to multiple points of exposure. A breach of any system, whether used directly for patient care or in the office, can have devastating effects on the safety of PHI, the reputation of an organization, and the risk of fines and jail time for employees and corporate officers.
It comes as no surprise as to why cybercriminals target financial institutions. They are home to highly-coveted records and assets. Think of your personal bank accounts. If a cybercriminal can make a breach here, it is a direct route towards what they are most often looking for - money.
The big risk? People trust financial institutions to store their money and other financial assets/records. A cyber breach at a financial institution, such as a bank, can reveal personal financial information and result in the loss of hard-earned money. In many cases, financial institutions do not fully insure your account holdings. That means if a cybercriminal gets away with the entirety of what you had stored at a bank, you may only be able to recoup a portion of that amount. Customers should check with their banks on what percentage of their savings are insured.
For financial institutions, protecting data is a 24/7 job. It involves monitoring networks, hardware, applications, and even IoT. Since there are so many routes to exposure, IT teams in the financial industry should consider data-driven metrics to evaluate the risk potential. These measures could involve live threat intelligence feeds and the use of predictive data models. For smaller institutions or those with a lower IT budget in general, the focus may only be on vulnerable areas that present the biggest risk.
With the use of things like security cameras and plain-clothed security officers, retail giants make clear that they are most concerned with the elusive shoplifter. They watch for everything from those walking out with unpaid items to those getting more elaborate with barcode switches. However, with so much focus on what is "physically" happening, many retailers neglect on-site data and eCommerce security.
The big risk? Since retailers process credit card data, they are attractive targets for cybercriminals. This could mean stolen credit card information and other personal data like email and home addresses. When a breach occurs in this industry, it is most often due to poor data storage processes. Not sure where to begin? It is time to get familiar with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). According to their website, they provide, "a set of security standards designed to ensure that ALL companies that accept, process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment."
If you are still uncertain about how to go about closing security loopholes at your retail business, a great place to start is with regular, documented, vulnerability assessments.
Cloud systems are dynamic environments, which differ significantly from on-site infrastructure set-ups. Although cloud systems are more secure than hardware and software located directly on-site, they are not invincible to cyber threats.
The big risk? Many organizations have rapidly shifted operations to the cloud. Though the transition to the cloud is a great choice, many IT professionals continue to approach security in the same ways they did with previous on-premises computing set-ups. These tactics often result in delayed response times to potential threats. Legacy security tools work at a much slower pace, often unable to keep up with the rapid deployment of the cloud and its additional services. Cloud computing vulnerability is best managed through the running of regular security scans. Although this responsibility may lie with your provider, and it is an important detail to check on prior to signing any working agreement.
What are Vulnerability Management Best Practices?
- Organizations need to move away from being reactive
- Implementing tactics that are more risk-based are considered ideal. That means identifying and evaluating potential threats before they occur
- Monitor your systems that are offsite (ex. cloud services). Just because they are out of sight (and out of mind at times) does not mean you should not follow up on their promise of secure services
- Automate security scans at a minimum of 2 x a week
Example of a Vulnerability Management Framework
IT leaders should consider following the five steps associated with a vulnerability management framework on a regular basis.
- Discover: An organization cannot secure their hardware, software, or applications until they have identified possible vulnerabilities in each. Regular security scans can identify weak spots in your systems
- Prioritize your assets: Some organizations can be home to more tech than they know of themselves. Laptops, printers, mobile phones, etc. The more tech, the more vulnerabilities. Organizations should group their tech assets based on level of risk and importance to an organization. This practice is important because it will be nearly impossible to close off every avenue to vulnerability
- Assess risk levels & report: As you assess the level of risk associated with the tech at your organization, it is important to set a baseline of what is acceptable, and what is dangerous. These standards could change over time. IT leaders should document and report baseline metrics and other findings to leadership teams for the purpose of transparency. This can also be helpful in the case that employees stumble on something suspicious based on the recommendations of IT
- Remediate: You have identified the vulnerabilities, and now it is time to take care of them. Patch vulnerabilities that you can yourself, and report the ones you cannot fix to developers who can. Remediation also means taking proactive steps towards ensuring other vulnerabilities that do not require action remain at bay
- Verify: Ensure your remediation efforts worked. Run additional scans to verify that you have closed off the risk
Top Vulnerability Management & Assessment Software Tools
If your organization handles sensitive data over various forms of tech, you should definitely be thinking about deploying vulnerability management software. In a nutshell, these tools proactively monitor your systems for weakness. This is done through scanning, which has been talked about throughout this piece. If vulnerabilities are found, this software can provide recommendations to strengthen your stance.
Here are a few of the top options available to organizations of all sizes.
Qualy's Vulnerability Management
Key features: Experienced in the field, accurate scanning
On the enterprise security scene since 1999, Qualy's is no stranger to the game. It is best known for its accurate scanning capabilities, which are constantly monitoring - a critical component to any vulnerability management system. Most of its features can be automated, meaning it involves little to no human intervention. Qualy's also excels at asset management.
Key features: Ideal for large organizations, easy to read dashboard
Ideal for larger organizations, or those with a lot of tech on hand, Tenable prides itself on continuous visibility, in-depth analytics, and compliance management. Out of the box, it is quick and easy to set-up, providing users with a brilliant dashboard for ease of consumption and action.
Key features: Uses artificial intelligence, ticketing system for on-demand support by security experts
This software relies on scans powered by artificial intelligence (AI). This provides organizations with accurate results. However, the big selling point of this software is the on-demand availability of security experts to help you with issues that are flagged during regular scans. This is extremely helpful for organizations who may not be as tech-savvy.