Innovation in technology often results in unintended vulnerabilities. When software companies release updates, there may be weaknesses in the code that hackers can exploit. Companies respond by issuing security patches to address these vulnerabilities, but the cycle repeats with each new update to software or hardware.
Unfortunately, many organisations do not prioritise assessing and managing network weaknesses, which leaves them vulnerable to hacker attacks. It is estimated that up to 93% of corporate networks are susceptible to penetration by hackers. As a result, many organisations suffer breaches due to poor vulnerability management. 61% of security vulnerabilities in corporate networks are over five years old.
Common cyberattacks, such as ransomware attacks and account takeovers, often exploit unpatched software code vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities are exploited by hackers through the use of malicious code, allowing them to elevate privileges, run system commands, or perform other dangerous network intrusions.
To reduce the risk of these attacks, it is important to implement an effective vulnerability management process. This process does not need to be complicated. By following the steps outlined below, organisations can start to improve their vulnerability management:
Vulnerability Management Process
Step 1. Identify Your Assets
The first step in effective vulnerability management is identifying all devices and software that need assessment. This includes all devices that connect to your network, such as computers, smartphones, tablets, IoT devices, servers, and cloud services.
To effectively manage vulnerabilities, it’s crucial to identify all potential weaknesses in operating systems, cloud platforms, software, firmware, and other areas. To achieve this, you should maintain a comprehensive inventory of all endpoints and systems in your network to determine the assessment’s scope.
By taking this critical first step, you can ensure that all vulnerable devices and software are included in your assessment, and you can begin to address any identified vulnerabilities.
Step 2: Perform a Vulnerability Assessment
The next step in vulnerability management is to perform a comprehensive vulnerability assessment. This task is usually performed by an IT professional using specialised assessment software, which may also include penetration testing.
During the assessment, the IT professional scans your systems for any known vulnerabilities. The assessment tool matches the software versions on your systems against vulnerability databases. For instance, if a database notes that a particular version of Microsoft Exchange has a vulnerability, the tool will detect if you have a server running that same version and flag it as a potential weakness in your security.
Step 3: Prioritise Vulnerabilities by Threat Level
The results of the vulnerability assessment provide a roadmap for mitigating network vulnerabilities. It’s important to note that not all vulnerabilities are equally severe; therefore, you must prioritise which ones to address first.
At the top of your list should be vulnerabilities considered severe by experts. Many vulnerability assessment tools use the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS), which categorises vulnerabilities with a rating score ranging from low to critical severity.
It would be best to prioritise vulnerabilities based on your business needs. For instance, software only used occasionally on a single device may be considered a lower priority to address than a vulnerability in software used on all employee devices, which may be regarded as a high priority.
Step 4: Remediate Vulnerabilities
Once you have prioritised the list of vulnerabilities, the next step is to remediate them. This can typically be achieved by applying an update or security patch, but it may also require upgrading the hardware that is too old to update.
In some cases, a form of remediation called ringfencing may be necessary. This involves “walling off” an application or device from others in the network. A company may opt for this solution if a scan turns up a vulnerability for which a patch does not yet exist.
Increasing advanced threat protection settings in your network can also help to remediate vulnerabilities. Once you have completed the remediation process, confirming that the fixes have been applied successfully is essential.
Step 5: Document Activities
Documenting the vulnerability assessment and management process is crucial for cybersecurity and compliance. It’s essential to record the date of the last vulnerability assessment and document all the steps taken to remediate each vulnerability. Detailed logs will be crucial in case of a future breach and will also help inform the following vulnerability assessment.
Step 6. Schedule Your Next Vulnerability Assessment Scan
Conducting a vulnerability assessment and mitigation is not a one-time process but rather an ongoing one. In 2022 alone, more than 22,500 new vulnerabilities were documented, and developers continuously update their software, which may introduce new vulnerabilities to your network. Therefore, it’s essential to have a schedule for regular vulnerability assessments as a best practice. The cycle of assessment, prioritisation, mitigation, and documentation should be continuous to fortify your network against cyberattacks and remove one of the main enablers of hackers.
Get Started with a Vulnerability Assessment
Protect your network from cyberattacks by taking the first step towards effective vulnerability management. Qamba offers expert assistance in fortifying your system through a comprehensive vulnerability assessment. Schedule an assessment with us today to start securing your network.