securing your organization vulnerability management

Now more than ever, organizations are faced with a constant battle to protect organizational data and supporting infrastructure. While standard protection mechanisms are a key component, an often-overlooked aspect is a robust vulnerability management program.

Vulnerability management is the process of identifying, prioritizing, mitigating and managing security vulnerabilities in an organization's environment. The goal of vulnerability management is to provide a proactive approach in addressing weaknesses before they can be exploited by bad actors. It is easy to see why vulnerability management is a core component of an overarching security posture and is crucial for minimizing the risk of security incidents, data breaches, financial losses and reputational damage.  

There are a few main areas of vulnerability management that play a key role in addressing risk: threat intelligence, penetration testing, vulnerability scanning, remediation and tracking. The rest of this article will outline the importance of the effectiveness of these areas and how they can aid in creating a robust vulnerability management program. 

Threat intelligence

Threat intelligence is the use of leveraging information from reputable sources to allow organizations to stay informed about emerging threats, attack vectors and malicious actors targeting their industry or specific assets. The information gleaned from threat intelligence sources gives security teams the ability to prioritize vulnerabilities based on their likelihood of exploitation and potential impact, enabling them to allocate resources effectively and focus on mitigating critical and high-risk vulnerabilities.  

Subscribing to and monitoring reputable threat intelligence sources enables organizations to proactively analyze and defend against evolving threats, rather than reacting to known vulnerabilities.  

Penetration testing and vulnerability scanning

The goal of vulnerability scanning is to identify known vulnerabilities in systems, applications and endpoints. Penetration testing takes this activity one step further by simulating a cyberattack to identify potential security weaknesses and the exploitability of those weaknesses. 

Penetration testing allows organizations to identify vulnerabilities that may not be detected by automated scanning tools, such as misconfigurations, complex attack vectors and logic flaws. On the other hand, vulnerability scans provide visibility into known vulnerabilities across the environment. The use of automated scanning tools can aid in streamlining the vulnerability management program by continuously scanning for new vulnerabilities and prioritizing them based on severity and potential impact. 

A key component that is often overlooked when developing penetration testing and vulnerability scanning activities is the importance of accurate inventories. Endpoints and systems are regularly added and removed from an organization's environment, and it's important to ensure that the scope of the penetration testing and vulnerability scanning activities provides comprehensive coverage. 

Remediation and tracking

In vulnerability management, identifying vulnerabilities is only the first step. Equally, if not more important, is the timely remediation of identified vulnerabilities to effectively mitigate risks. Remediation can involve different tasks such as implementing necessary patches, making configuration or code changes, or even decommissioning a system or service.   

Tracking remediation tasks is a piece that is often forgotten but is critical in ensuring a well-oiled vulnerability management program. Tracking should begin with the vulnerability being assigned to the correct owner and flow through remediation tasks until verification that the vulnerability is no longer present within the organization's environment. In some cases, it may not be possible to remediate a vulnerability; in these scenarios, a formal risk acceptance, including mitigating controls that have been implemented, should be documented and approved by appropriate management. Risks that are accepted should be reviewed periodically, as the cyber landscape is ever-changing and so is an organization's risk appetite; risks that have been accepted in the past may not be acceptable months in the future. 

By integrating threat intelligence, leveraging penetration testing and vulnerability scanning and effectively remediating and tracking vulnerabilities, organizations can strengthen their cyber defense to remain persistent with emerging threats.

Are you unsure if your organization has vulnerability management down to science? Baker Tilly offers a range of services including the identification of vulnerabilities within the environment through penetration testing and vulnerability scanning and the assessment of the ability to respond to and remediate identified vulnerabilities. Connect with a Baker Tilly specialist to discuss your organization’s vulnerability management further.

Brian Nichols
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