In this blog article, you’ve learned what makes an effective cyber security strategy. If you’ve followed the advice outlined, then all well and good. But how can you ensure that your systems remain adequately protected over the long term? After all, cyber security is extremely dynamic – and cyber criminals never rest. While the challenges involved might appear impossible to solve, there is an answer: vulnerability management. In this blog posting, we explain why vulnerability management is such a vital aspect of IT security and what it really involves.
Nowadays, barely a day passes without the media reporting on some new kind of cyber attack. What’s more, these attacks aren’t just affecting small and medium-sized businesses. Perhaps the most worrying thing is that matters are only likely to get worse. It’s therefore clear that even the best solutions are worth nothing if there are underlying weaknesses that make your IT systems and applications vulnerable. Such vulnerabilities can sooner or later lead to disaster. Experts have confirmed, in fact, that virtually all successful attacks are due to vulnerabilities that have been present for more than a year. Incredible, isn’t it? An effective system for IT vulnerability management should therefore be the cornerstone of any successful cyber security strategy.
Targeted identification and elimination of vulnerabilities
Because IT systems can be so wide-ranging in their scope, you should ideally concentrate first of all on any especially sensitive areas. The following vulnerabilities present particularly attractive opportunities for cyber attacks:
- Missing patches: Known weaknesses in exposed IT systems such as web applications, as well as other applications on the computer such as web browsers, operating systems, protocols and – to an increasing degree – IoT devices are all business-critical and therefore a potential entry point for hackers. Since many successful cyber attacks can be attributed to vulnerabilities that have been known about for some time, it’s vital that patches and security updates are installed on your systems at the earliest opportunity.
- Incorrectly configured systems: As basic misconfigurations within your IT infrastructure can represent a major problem, regular scans are crucial.
- Security issues related to administrator access: In practice, default passwords are used for administrator access more than you might expect, while inadequate encryption systems – or even a lack of encryption – can create opportunities for successful cyber attacks.
The ABC of vulnerability management
There are therefore all sorts of reasons why it’s worth considering the topic of vulnerability management in detail. What measures has your organisation adopted? Is vulnerability management already a standard element of your business operations? If it isn’t, we’d recommend the following tried and tested cycle of activities:
- Checking your inventory: This process involves recording all of the active devices that belong to your IT infrastructure and that are connected to an IP network. The resulting report forms the starting point for predicting potential vulnerabilities.
- Identification and prioritisation: This step is at the heart of vulnerability management. Regular scans of your applications and systems will help you to locate vulnerabilities and prioritise these based on the potential risks involved.
- Elimination of vulnerabilities: This stage requires the involvement of your entire security structure, especially your IT support service. In most cases tickets are created for any vulnerabilities identified, and in response to those tickets, the issues concerned are resolved manually or automatically.
- Re-evaluation: No cycle is ever fully complete. Once the problem is eliminated, the functional areas will need be to be checked again. In this way, an assessment can be made of how successful the patch management process has been and, if necessary, the general security situation can also be re-evaluated.
A problem found, a problem solved
While vulnerability management goes hand in hand with patch management, it’s worth considering the precise differences involved. The first of these is a proactive process designed to identify not just those vulnerabilities for which a patch exists but also any errors in the system configuration or any other known weaknesses. Patch management, on the other hand, ties in with this. In some cases, it can be a matter of weeks or even months until suitable patches are available for the vulnerabilities identified. That’s why careful prioritisation of the vulnerabilities is so extremely important. In such cases, particular attention should be given to any existing security risks that will remain present until the vulnerability is resolved.
Pre-empting the attacker
Pre-empting the attacker of course, even the best vulnerability management strategy cannot offer 100% protection from intrusion. It can, however, significantly increase the barriers to entry – and enable you to resolve known security loopholes before hackers try to exploit them. What’s important is that vulnerability management is taken seriously and treated as an ongoing process, firstly because hackers are extremely agile and secondly because networks are in a constant state of flux.
Are your systems adequate for today’s challenges?
In our experience, very few solutions can fulfil current requirements and adequately identify vulnerabilities. In many cases, in-house specialists lack the resources they need to tackle the problems involved. What issues do you face in your own organisation? If you want to optimise the way you protect your IT systems and reduce system downtimes while also saving money, then the InfoGuard Vulnerability Management service may be what you need. We can provide dedicated cyber security specialists with many years of experience in localising and analysing vulnerabilities in applications, systems, networks and configurations. We can help you – and help enhance your security. Find out more here: