Vulnerability management tools are security applications that scan networks and software to identify weaknesses that malicious actors can exploit. Once a scan pinpoints a weakness, the vulnerability software initiates or recommends remediation action, which reduces the risk of attack.
Vulnerability management tools incorporated alongside other security measures are key for businesses to not only prioritise possible threats but to minimise attack surfaces at the same time. Let’s take a closer look at vulnerability management tools and why they are so important in today’s digital age.
The vulnerability management tools process
The vulnerability management tools process can be broken down into four steps:
- Identifying vulnerabilities
- Evaluating vulnerabilities
- Treating, or managing vulnerabilities
- Reporting vulnerabilities
Let’s take a closer look at each step in the process:
At the centre of a good vulnerability management solution is a vulnerability scanner. The scan will perform four important actions to pinpoint a vulnerability, including cloud vulnerabilities. These actions are as follows:
- Scan network-accessible systems by sending them TCP/UDP packets or by pinging them.
- Identify open services and ports.
- Remotely log in to systems to obtain detailed system information.
- Correlate system information with known vulnerabilities.
Vulnerability scanners can identify many different systems running on a network, such as desktops, laptops, physical and virtual servers, firewalls, databases, printers, switches, and many more. Systems that have been identified are probed for different attributes: open ports, operating systems, user accounts, installed software, system configurations, file system structure, and more. The information gathered is used to associate known vulnerabilities to scanned systems. To perform this association, vulnerability scanners use a vulnerability database that contains publicly known vulnerabilities.
Configuring vulnerability scans properly and correctly is a fundamental component of managing vulnerabilities in an efficient way. If not configured properly, vulnerability scanners can disrupt the systems and networks that they scan. To ensure optimum performance, vulnerability scans should be scheduled to run during off hours so that there are no bandwidth or connection issues affecting the checks.
Once the vulnerabilities have been identified, they must be evaluated properly so that the risks posed by them can be dealt with appropriately and in accordance with the company’s risk management strategy. Vulnerability management tools are able to provide different scores and risk ratings for vulnerabilities, such as the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) scores. These scores are important for highlighting which vulnerabilities organisations should focus on and in what order. But it doesn’t end there because the real risk posed by any given vulnerability depends on other factors beyond the standard risk ratings and scores. The following should also be considered when evaluating vulnerabilities:
- Does this vulnerability trigger a true or false positive?
- Can this vulnerability be directly exploited from the Internet?
- How difficult is it to exploit the vulnerability?
- Is there already a published exploit code for this vulnerability?
- What would happen to the organisation if this vulnerability were exploited?
- Are there security controls in place that could reduce the likelihood of the vulnerability being exploited?
- How long has the vulnerability been on the network?
Bear in mind that vulnerability scanners aren’t foolproof. Their vulnerability detection false-positive rates are still greater than zero. Performing vulnerability validation with penetration testing techniques helps eliminate false positives so businesses can focus on the real vulnerabilities.
Treating, or managing vulnerabilities
Once a vulnerability has been deemed a risk, prioritising its importance and conveying that to the board is the next step. Vulnerabilities can be treated in the following ways:
- Remediation: Fixing or patching a vulnerability so that it can’t be exploited.
- Mitigation: Reducing the likelihood of a vulnerability being exploited.
- Acceptance: Taking no action to fix a vulnerability, which can be the case in low-risk instances.
Vulnerability management tools and solutions will provide your organisation with recommended remediation techniques for the pinpointed vulnerabilities. The correct remediation approach needs to be determined by an organisation’s internal or external security team, system administrators and system owners.
Performing regular vulnerability assessments will allow organisations to understand the efficiency and speed of their vulnerability management program over time. Vulnerability management solutions provide different options for visualising and extracting vulnerability scan data via customisable dashboards and reports. This enables IT teams to understand which remediation techniques will help them fix the vulnerability with the least amount of effort or help security teams when they come to monitor them. It’s also key for when it comes to supporting regulatory requirements and compliance.
How experts can help
RiskXchange provides an extensive vulnerability management solution for organisations of all sizes anywhere in the world. Vulnerability screening and visualising vulnerabilities through modelling and simulation is a good way to reduce attack surfaces. Patch simulation and attack surface modelling all help to pinpoint an attack surface and identify ways in which an attacker can gain access to a network. Once the vulnerabilities have been pinpointed, the next stage is to defend and mitigate, then reduce risk by protecting the network.
Get in touch with RiskXchange to find out more about managing vulnerabilities and vulnerability management tools.