Threat actors are coming at organizations with every weapon in their arsenal, which means a threat environment that is increasingly complex. With vulnerabilities rapidly increasing in number, companies are stuck trying to patch vulnerabilities with limited resources – leaving a lot of vulnerabilities unpatched, and opening themselves up to attacks and data breaches on-premises and in the cloud.
Patching these vulnerabilities based on their risk profile is critical if organizations want to make the most of limited patching resources – alongside the intelligent implementation of cloud data security tools, and well as additional tools such as a web application firewall and runtime application self-protection.
The Vulnerability Count Is Out of Control
Cybersecurity vulnerabilities exist in various forms across every device and service an organization uses and include software bugs, misconfigurations, weak passwords, and outdated systems. The number of these vulnerabilities grew exponentially over the years thanks to the increasing complexity of technology and digital platforms, but also because of a growing crowd of threat actors.
Most applications contain exploitable vulnerabilities which means that each of these applications also acts as a potential entry point for cybercriminals. Of course, it’s possible to properly secure an application. But given the sheer number of vulnerabilities and how quickly these vulnerabilities emerge, properly securing every application or service a company depends on is almost impossible.
Companies struggle to keep up with the constant flow of patches, which results in overlooking critical vulnerabilities and leaving the door open for hackers. The only way to deal with that is to prioritize vulnerabilities wherever possible.
Taking A Risk-Based Approach
A risk-based vulnerability management program provides a robust preventive approach that enables quick detection of vulnerabilities, and a systematic ranking of vulnerabilities based on the potential threat to a business?. It includes a few key steps:
- Identify assets: Mapping out the organization’s hardware, software, data, and personnel because organizations can’t protect what they don’t know about.
Risk assessment: Once all the assets are identified, the organization needs to assess the risk associated with each asset, including the threats and vulnerabilities that could impact the asset. Vulnerabilities are categorized as high risk or low risk based on exploitability and the potential damage an exploit could cause.
- Prioritize vulnerabilities: The risk assessment serves as a guide to prioritize remediation tasks based on their potential impact on the organization’s assets and operations if an attack succeeds.
- Remediate and monitor: Remediation can include patches, configuration changes, or other security measures which should then be continually monitored and reviewed to make sure it remains effective against new threats.
This risk-based approach ensured that limited cybersecurity resources can scale across all the key areas of an organization’s technology estate, continuing to remediate critical vulnerabilities as the list of vulnerabilities grows over time.
Boost Risk-Based Management with a Toolset
Understanding the risk is a key part of the risk-based approach, and that demands an overarching view of cybersecurity risk – and the threat environment. For example, threat intelligence feeds play a crucial role in automated vulnerability management.
These feeds provide updated information on the latest cyber threats and attacks, including vulnerabilities, malware, phishing, and other malicious activities. This feed supports a more proactive approach and significantly reduces the risk of successful attacks and data breaches??.
Furthermore, automation is a critical element in managing the risk assessment process – and in remediating vulnerabilities. It can be used to detect and prioritize threats, alert specialists, and keep an audit trail, thereby minimizing time and effort spent and promptly mitigating the likelihood of exploitation.
Automated patch management can also be a game-changer: many applications, services, and devices can be patched automatically which helps close the patching gap in the face of limited staffing resources. It reduces the risk of exploitation by attackers and frees up IT staff to focus on other vital activities.
Augment Vulnerability Management with Additional Cybersecurity Tools
Effective cybersecurity depends on a wide range of tools all working in concert. Yes, ideally an organization will patch all vulnerabilities consistently, but it’s simply not practical. By making use of a range of other tools such as a WAF, WAAP, and RASP, an organization can ensure that it takes a broad-based approach to cybersecurity.
Each of these tools works in different ways to protect applications, particularly those applications and services with vulnerabilities that are not yet patched:
- WAF (Web Application Firewall): Designed for HTTP applications, it filters, monitors, and blocks HTTP traffic to and from a web application. Blocking is rules-based and can stop common attacks such as cross-site scripting (XSS), SQL injection, and file inclusion. WAFs do their magic by intercepting and inspecting traffic before it reaches the application, blocking any malicious requests.
- WAAP (Web Application and API Protection): A WAAP goes one step further than a WAF by adding protective measures such as DDoS protection, bot management, API security, and more. It provides a multi-layered defense to safeguard against different types of threats. If a known vulnerability has not yet been patched, a WAAP can significantly mitigate the risk of a successful attack.
- RASP (Runtime Application Self-Protection): Unlike a WAF and WAAP, a RASP is integrated within an application itself and detects and prevents attacks in real-time by inspecting requests and responses to identify and block malicious behavior. Like a WAAP, RASP can often identify and block zero-day exploits (vulnerabilities unknown to the software provider) – which in turn means it can protect against unmitigated vulnerabilities.
Patching the right vulnerabilities at the right time can deliver a large degree of success – but vulnerability patching will never be airtight, so it stands to reason that organizations should also deploy tools such as a WAAP or RASP to ensure that the more motivated attackers are still stopped.
Remember that patching and toolsets are just one part of a robust security posture. Secure coding practices, ongoing security assessments, and cybersecurity all matter in the fight against threat actors.