There are new vulnerabilities in the cyber world being discovered constantly. It seems like virtually every day, there is a story about an organization that is breached owing to vulnerabilities in its information technology systems. More disturbingly, news of the SolarWinds attack highlighted the sophistication of cyberattacks wherein a legitimate utility on the targeted system was modified, executed, and then replaced with the legitimate one. The integration of 5G and machine learning can further open the network to several serious cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Given this scenario, the obvious answer involves securing your networks and IT systems from potential attacks by eliminating threats.

Other than securing your networks, you also need to deal with breaches caused by known vulnerabilities. Sometimes, patches are available for weeks and months yet the vulnerability is left unaddressed. If an organization is aware that its network has vulnerabilities, why not patch them up immediately? The delay occurs because they encounter too many vulnerabilities and have little time to fix these issues. So what you need to be asking is, “How can you know which vulnerabilities to rectify first?”

The solution is by building a strong vulnerability management system.

Here are 4 stages to keep in mind when setting up a successful vulnerability management program.

1) Scanning of assets

The most important step involves recognizing your organization’s Operational Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT) assets. After all, you cannot protect your assets if you aren’t aware of the assets you have. Make sure to critically examine networks, connected third-party systems, different data types, storage devices, and computing systems on the company’s network. Following this, classify these factors based on risk to the business. Understand how certain factors can also increase an asset’s inherent risk by measuring system availability and user access. You also need to focus on coupling, a term that revolves around the interdependencies of systems. This shows you how adversely one factor such as a higher risk asset can affect another factor in a security framework. While assets with greater importance should be at the top of your priority list, do not ignore those with a lower risk value. Remember, every asset contributes to the overall operational risk so it is essential to pay attention to all elements and accordingly seek the right remediation effort.

Next, identify asset owners in an organization by understanding how they are responsible for the asset and the risk involved in case the asset is compromised. Unless individuals are held accountable, the vulnerabilities found will be ignored as a nameless risk. Also, have an up-to-date vulnerability scanning tool and conduct recurrent scans so that new risks are identified and remediation of vulnerabilities can be reprioritized as information gets updated. Establishing timelines for remediation helps understand the extent to which an attacker is taking advantage of a vulnerability.

2) Asset discovery and inventory

As an organization, you need to simplify every element of your vulnerability management program so that it proves to be effective. To do this, you need to go through asset discovery and inventory. Asset discovery aims to manage all hardware devices on the network. This ensures only authorized devices can gain access while unmanaged devices are identified and prevented from getting into the network. On the other hand, asset inventory contributes to actively look at all software on the network, making sure only authorized software can be installed and implemented. These two controls are important so that attackers cannot exploit potentially unpatched shadow IT devices (devices used by a department or individual without the explicit approval or knowledge of the IT or security group in an organization).

3) Vulnerability detection, categorization and prioritization

It is imperative to conduct regular vulnerability scans as they proactively check for existing and potential application, network, and security issues. These scans distinguish and categorize system weaknesses in infrastructure equipment, computers, and networks. This scan can also be carried out by attackers when trying to locate points of entry into your organization’s network. It is therefore important for the IT department to run a vulnerability scanning service from the perspective of the organization examining the attack surface. Accordingly, you can categorize and prioritize the vulnerability that threatens your vital system.

Since this scan also shows you what can occur if your system or network is exploited, you gain the guidance necessary to minimize the risk posed to those assets. The scanning service uses a database to check details about the attack in question. These scans can also tell how competent counter-measures are in the event of a threat.

4) Reporting and remediation

After vulnerability detection is completed, a score is given to every vulnerability. This score is provided using a specialized convention that also connects to the skills required to examine the flaw and other critical data. If the vulnerability is easy to exploit, it results in a higher risk score. Also, as the vulnerability age increases so does the score of the vulnerability. This helps you generate a vulnerability risk management solution so that a remediation plan can be set in place.

To set up a good vulnerability management program, you need to begin with patch management by understanding which patches are available and applicable to the environment’s vulnerabilities. Implementing a security software solution such as SecurityShield helps you discover vulnerabilities, examine their impact, classify them and accordingly generate a prioritized risk response remediation plan to fix them. It is also important for all individuals in your organization to have intuitive workflows to coordinate remediation efforts carried out by the vulnerability risk management team and system owners. This helps to identify undetected data leaks and further strengthen the vulnerability management program.

Whether you are a government entity, small business, or huge corporation, every organization with an internet connection is at risk. Given how cyber threats are increasing and getting trickier by the day, it is better to proactively fight potential threats than manage the problem after an attacker has successfully paved their way into your system. If you aren’t sure about how to begin securing your organization’s sensitive information, you can read our blog on how to conduct a cyber risk assessment to get started or email us on info@sure-shield.com for guidance. For further information on how to enhance data security, follow SureShield on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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