How to Make the Process of Vulnerability Management as Effective and Easy as Possible

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Australian organisations are under constant attack from cyber criminals.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) found:

  • 90 percent of businesses experienced some type of cybersecurity compromise between 2015 and 2016.
  • 58 percent suffered at least one incident where data/systems were successfully compromised.
  • There were tangible impacts for 60 percent of these organisations.

These statistics shed light on just how serious things have become and show that businesses who haven’t experienced an issue are now in the minority. As a result, more and more companies are ramping up their security efforts and taking a proactive approach.

While there are a plethora of strategies available that run the cybersecurity gamut, one of the most effective is vulnerability management.

 

What is Vulnerability Management?

This is a process that involves identifying, classifying, remediating and mitigating vulnerabilities. It’s designed to help companies proactively defend against vulnerabilities in their software, applications, operating systems and network.

Rather than waiting for a cyber criminal to find and exploit flaws, this allows you to take measures to prevent exploitation from ever occurring in the first place. As a result, many would-be attacks are stopped before they have the chance to materialise.

With attacks on the rise, this is one of your best bets for defence and is part of a well-rounded cybersecurity strategy.

 

A Roadblock

There’s just one problem. Vulnerability management is notoriously complex (or at least that’s a common perception).

Many businesses feel that…

  • Software solutions are onerous to deploy
  • They eat up a high volume of network bandwidth
  • Reports aren’t always clear and open for misinterpretation
  • Remediation is a separate process entirely and comes with additional effort and costs
  • Maintenance is equally as arduous

These are just a few of issues that scare away companies from partaking in vulnerability management. In their eyes, the pros are simply outweighed by the cons.

It’s this perceived complexity, effort level and inconvenience that stops them from integrating this type of solution.

Some organisations also feel that vulnerability management is somewhat antiquated and no longer needed if they’re implementing other defensive measures such as IDS, firewalls and anti-malware. However, recent studies have shown that breaches have reached an all-time high, and you simply can’t rely on boundary defence and leave critical assets vulnerable.

This is what puts companies at unnecessary risk and increases their odds of encountering an attack.

 

Simplifying the Process

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this difficult. It’s really just a matter of simplifying your objectives and breaking them down into five manageable steps.

Here’s what those steps look like:

  1. Identify your organisation’s critical assets – Which software, devices, etc. are most integral to your company’s productivity and profitability? Which assets would have the most profound impact on operations if compromised? Having a clear idea of what your critical assets are provides you with direction so that you can ultimately keep them safe.
  2. Pinpoint vulnerabilities that could compromise those assets – Some examples include buffer overflow where there’s more data than a buffer can handle, malicious code and an SQL injection where an attacker can trick a database into doing unscrupulous things.
  3. Prioritise vulnerabilities in terms of importance – Which vulnerabilities are most severe? Which would cause the biggest problems if unremedied? Ranking these in sequential order provides you with a detailed outline of what demands your attention first.
  4. Resolve issues accordingly – This is where you remediate vulnerabilities in order of their importance.
  5. Validate – This is basically a follow-up where you validate your efforts to ensure that all issues have been addressed and known vulnerabilities have been patched.

However, you’re not done there.

For vulnerability management to truly be effective, you must adapt a cyclical approach. You’ll need to repeat these steps ad infinitum.

Why?

Cybersecurity isn’t a one-off type of deal. Modern businesses are caught up in a never-ending game of cat-and-mouse with cyber criminals. There are always new software updates, bugs, viruses, etc. being released meaning that companies must never let their guard down.

 

Vulnerability Scanning

Another way to streamline things is to use a vulnerability scanning service. This is where you partner with a third-party vendor and use powerful integrated vulnerability scanning and testing tools to do the heavy lifting.

These tools help you pinpoint vulnerabilities and prioritise them by ranking. From there, you’ll receive recommendations on how to fix those vulnerabilities and the most efficient path to take.

Some services like Stickman will even fix potential weaknesses in your network for you, which is ideal for many SMBs who lack a formal IT department or a dedicated in-house cybersecurity expert. This can truly be a lifesaver if your organisation lacks the technical know-how.

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By examining trend analysis reports, you’ll also get an idea of whether or not your network security is improving over time. This way you can really tighten up your cybersecurity and greatly reduce your odds of falling victim.

The best part is that it’s very hands off, so you can concern yourself more with core business operations rather than fixating on security.

 

Our Partnership with SAINT

At Stickman, we’re committed to advising our customers on best practices to protect them from the barrage of cyber attacks that are out there. That’s why we’re excited to announce that we’ve recently partnered with SAINT to bring the Asia Pacific market the first and only integrated management and penetration testing tool.

SAINT Corporation is a company that has been a global leader in innovative IT solutions since 1998 and whose products and services have been used by top companies to minimise security risk and maintain regulatory compliance. SAINT is a producer of high quality vulnerability management solutions, while Stickman is a cybersecurity advisor.

By using their tools, we’ll be better able to assess our customers’ technical vulnerabilities and provide even more comprehensive protection to drastically reduce their odds of encountering a cyber attack.

 

The Benefits

SAINT’s product suite is incredibly robust and capable of performing full-scale vulnerability management. The full range of their products include the following:

  • Vulnerability assessment – This involves identifying, assessing, remediating and validating.
  • Configuration assessment – Benchmark your security configuration against similar companies in your industry and pinpoint anomalies in configurations.
  • Social engineering – This feature allows you to test your team members’ knowledge of phishing attacks by sending spoof email messages. You could argue that this has never been more important considering that 97 percent of employees can’t identify a sophisticated phishing attack.
  • Penetration testing – This goes into the specifics of the precise path an attacker could use to gain access to your assets.
  • Asset management – Better understand which assets like systems, data and devices are most vital to your organisation.
  • Advanced analytics – Data is great, but it can quickly become overwhelming, especially when you’re dealing with thousands of scan results at a time. Advanced analytics helps you make sense of your data visually to gain an overarching perspective of your cybersecurity.
  • Incident response – Helps your organisation become more adept at swiftly responding to incidents before it’s too late. Includes workflow triggers, quarantining at-risk or compromised assets and formal training from IT experts.
  • Reporting – Create organised, customised reports that put you in control of your data.

Put all of these features together, and you’re able to efficiently analyse and triage vulnerabilities for a fast and efficient response to potential threats.

On top of this, SAINT places an emphasis on performing frequent vulnerability scanning and continually assessing network activities. This translates into continuous monitoring, assessment and remediation of vulnerabilities, thus keeping your threat level low. By scheduling routine scans, you’re always one step ahead of cyber criminals.

One thing that separates SAINT’s product suite from most other vulnerability management providers is its ability to perform scans on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. There are only a few products that are currently registered with AWS for the purpose of vulnerability scans, so using SAINT offers organisations a tremendous advantage. If you’re an AWS user, this is a  godsend.

 

Simplifying the Complex

There’s no denying the importance of vulnerability management for 21st century Australian companies. As many have already found out, it’s not a matter of if but when your data will be compromised.

With the average cost of a data breach costing Australian organisations a whopping $2.51 million AUD in 2017 and, this simply isn’t a risk worth taking.

However, some organisations are reluctant to get on board because of the perceived complexity that often comes along with implementing a vulnerability management solution. And this is understandable.

But fortunately, they don’t have to go it alone.

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Cybersecurity has evolved dramatically in recent years, and using a vulnerability scanning and penetration service takes the burden and guesswork out of it. This way you can ensure that your company’s critical assets are covered and prompt remediation takes place whenever an issue arises.

The new relationship between Stickman and SAINT marks another milestone in vulnerability management. Together we’re now able to offer our clients an even more robust solution to meet their specific needs.

The end result? Smoother operations, perpetual compliance with data regulations and greater peace of mind.

To learn more about what we offer and how vulnerability management can benefit your business, please contact us today.

Which specific types of security threats is your organisation most concerned with? Please let us know:

 

Image Credits

Featured image: geralt / Pixabay

In-post image 1: Mary Whitney / Pexels

In-post image 2: Kevin Ku / Pexels

 

Ajay Unni

Ajay Unni is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Stickman. Ajay specialises in helping customers manage the growing threat of data breaches and compliance with globally accepted industry standards for data security and compliance. More articles by Ajay Unni

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