You’ll hear the mentions of remediation and mitigation a lot in cybersecurity. They are terms often used interchangeably but there is a distinct difference between the two. Both play a key role in cybersecurity service providers’ risk-related decision-making. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at remediated vs mitigated vulnerabilities so that you are aware of the fundamental differences.
The difference between remediated vs mitigated
Learning the difference between remediated vs mitigated vulnerabilities can help you better protect your data. Mitigation and remediation are a result of risk assessment, following either a new or advanced persistent threat (APT). Mitigation includes reducing the impact of a threat when it cannot be eliminated. Remediation completely removes the threat when it’s possible.
Risk remediation is much more straightforward than mitigation because it uses indicators of compromise (IoCs) to ascertain attack patterns. For example, once a vulnerability has been pinpointed, it must be patched effectively to prevent malicious actors from exploiting it. The objective of remediation is to prevent threats from entering the network by closing off holes in security and to reduce the attack surface.
Remediation can be as complicated as replacing a whole host of physical servers across an entire business network or as simple as applying a software patch. Once remediation has been concluded, another vulnerability scan should be conducted to confirm that the vulnerability has been resolved.
How are vulnerabilities remediated?
Vulnerabilities are generally remediated through a workflow process that aims to eliminate weaknesses, including bugs or any type of vulnerability. The process includes scanning and testing for vulnerabilities, prioritising what can or cannot be remediated, fixing the problem, and monitoring for any vulnerabilities moving forward.
Mitigation is slightly more complex because removing the threat completely is not possible. Therefore, the focus should be on reducing the threat as much as possible. Mitigation begins with risk assessments which are used to measure the risk profile of a specific threat and to ensure that the remaining risks are justifiable. Mitigation allows for a vulnerability to be left unaddressed for a certain amount of time as long as it does not present offensive threats or risks.
Not all vulnerabilities have to be fixed. For example, if a vulnerability is identified in Adobe Flash Player but the use of Flash Player has already been disabled in all web-browsers and applications, there is no need for any further action. What’s more, sometimes you might be prevented from taking remediation action due to a patch not yet being available for the vulnerability in question.
What’s the best solution?
When it comes to remediated vs mitigated risks, the best solution is of course to always remediate a vulnerability once it has been discovered. If in-house IT professionals are unable to patch or fix a vulnerability, it’s important to ensure that a cybersecurity expert or firm are brought in to mitigate or remediate the vulnerability before it becomes a major security threat.
If remediation is not possible, then mitigation is the only other approach. Sometimes issues from within your own business can come into play. For example, when a vulnerability is discovered on a customer-facing system and your business wants to avoid the downtime needed to patch the vulnerability, mitigation is the best solution. A good example of an effective approach is distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) mitigation which routes off suspicious traffic and sends it to a centralised location to be filtered.
How mitigation and remediation techniques can help your company
In today’s digital age, businesses are becoming much more tech savvy. They understand that their applications are not impenetrable and are willing to invest in methods to thwart attacks through penetration testing, computer forensics or threat intelligence. IT security experts are now very aware that they must go above and beyond the kill chain model to address attacks more effectively. They are also doing this using remediation and mitigation techniques.
Understanding the elements that make up the kill chain allow IT professionals to take the right action to prevent attacks. Let’s take a closer look at the key steps in a kill chain:
Threat actors research their target by looking at public internet records for expired certificates or domains that they can use for cyberattacks.
Once a weakness has been pinpointed in a target’s network, hackers create the payload they will use to infiltrate defences.
The hacker will then deliver a malicious payload via phishing emails, links embedded in spam or malware-laced email attachments.
Exploitation occurs when malicious actors enter a network by abusing a vulnerability in a connected device or system.
Malicious actors install malware on a system to elevate access privileges, gain control or steal data.
Command and control
A command and control server is used to communicate with infected hosts within the target’s network.
Actions on objectives
Malicious actors deliver the final blow to the target network, often by shutting down operations or by exfiltrating data.
Ways to undergo the vulnerability remediation vs mitigation process
Automation is fundamentally important when it comes to the mitigation or remediation process because threat actors study patches and create exploits, often soon after a patch has been released. Automation can be a godsend when it comes to effectively managing vulnerabilities. Let’s look closer at the remediated vs mitigated process.
When it comes to remediation, it’s important to adopt a vulnerability management solution that will eliminate the need for complex spreadsheets, manual reporting, and complicated back-and-forth email tags. Instead, a solution that can help automate remediation steps like retrieving fixes for identified vulnerabilities, aggregating key information, and applying the patches if appropriate are key.
When it comes to mitigation, investing in a vulnerability management solution that enables IT security teams to automatically implement either permanent or temporary compensating controls to reduce the risk of a vulnerability being exploited is the best option.
Preventing vulnerabilities on your attack surface
The National Security Agency (NSA) outlines five cybersecurity functions to mitigate and/or prevent vulnerabilities on your network. These include Identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover. With those in mind, let’s take a closer look at the top ten mitigation strategies to counter a broad range of exploitation techniques used by APT actors:
1. Update and upgrade software immediately
Apply all available software updates, automate the process to the extent possible, and use an update service provided directly from the vendor.
2. Defend privileges and accounts
Assign privileges based on risk exposure and as required to maintain operations. Use a Privileged Access Management (PAM) solution to automate credential management and fine-grained access control.
3. Enforce signed software execution policies
Use a modern operating system that enforces signed software execution policies for scripts, executables, device drivers, and system firmware.
4. Exercise a system recovery plan
Create, review, and exercise a system recovery plan to ensure the restoration of data as part of a comprehensive disaster recovery strategy.
5. Actively manage systems and configurations
Take inventory of network devices and software. Remove unwanted, unneeded, or unexpected hardware and software from the network.
6. Continuously hunt for network intrusions
Take proactive steps to detect, contain, and remove any malicious presence within the network.
7. Leverage modern hardware security features
Use hardware security features like Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) Secure Boot, Trusted Platform Module (TPM), and hardware virtualisation.
8. Segregate networks using application-aware defences
Segregate critical networks and services. Deploy application-aware network defences to block improperly formed traffic and restrict content, according to policy and legal authorisations.
9. Integrate threat reputation services
Leverage multi-sourced threat reputation services for files, DNS, URLs, IPs, and email addresses.
10. Transition to multi-factor authentication
Prioritise protection for accounts with elevated privileges, remote access, and/or used on high value assets.
Click here for a closer look at some key vulnerability tools.
How RiskXchange can help you on your remediation & mitigation journey
RiskXchange can reduce your organisation’s cyber risk by monitoring, tracking, and mitigating risk across your attack surface around the clock. We also streamline vendor assessment, due diligence, compliance, and remediation initiatives.
Let’s take a closer look at RiskXchange’s attack surface management benefits:
- Identify vulnerabilities in your attack surface and mitigate potential risks.
- Categorise your digital assets and monitor the attack surface more effectively.
- Automate your cybersecurity with an easy-to-use platform.
- Build an environment for a more secure supply chain.
- Benefit from robust reporting capabilities, making it easier for security teams to send detailed reports to business stakeholders.
- Reduce ongoing compliance costs with a single source of truth, automated compliance data collection and real-time compliance status.
Here are RiskXchange’s vendor risk management benefits:
- Increases visibility into cybersecurity risks and business exposures from vendors, suppliers and other third parties.
- Streamlines vendor assessment, compliance, due diligence, and remediation initiatives.
- Provides role-based reports for monitoring compliance and third-party risk mitigation.
- Strengthens vendor relationships by providing a collaborative platform for identifying and mitigating shared risks.
- Informs risk-based decisions to prioritise remediation and verify compliance.
- Unifies and centralises inside-out vendor risk assessment and outside-in vendor risk monitoring.
Get in touch with RiskXchange to find out everything you need to know about remediated vs mitigated and how best to protect your business.