The Importance of Vulnerability Assessments in Cybersecurity: Understanding and Mitigating Risk
What would happen if your computer got hacked right now? Would you be able to continue business as usual if your email address was suddenly hijacked? Do you have any contingency plans for each of these scenarios?
Research conducted by Cybersecurity Ventures reveals that the world loses $8 trillion to cybercrime every year. Not only does this include theft of credit card information, but it also includes lost productivity, intellectual property theft, and fraud. Vulnerability assessment is essential to make sure all networks, hardware, and software in an organization are protected against internal and external attacks.
If you’d like to learn about vulnerability assessment and how it can protect your organization, this article will be helpful.
What Is Vulnerability Assessment?
A vulnerability assessment allows businesses to understand the holes in their processes and infrastructure that open them up to cyber risks.
These assessments make use of tools such as network scanners to constantly look for vulnerabilities that can be exploited to breach applications, systems, and entire networks.
With the dizzying rate of change in the software field, new vulnerabilities are being discovered all the time. Vulnerability assessment helps management understand the kinds of risks they are facing so they can make informed decisions about where and when to tactically invest resources to reduce those risks.
How Comprehensive Is A Vulnerability Assessment?
The biggest risk in every organization is the human element. A chain is only as strong as the weakest link it has, so internal leaks pose the biggest threat to most organizations. One of the biggest cyber risks is a phishing attack, and nearly 91% of all phishing attacks begin with a simple email.
No matter how well-funded and comprehensive your defenses are, breaches can occur if insiders use unauthorized software or tools in their jobs because of the conveniences they offer.
For this reason, vulnerability assessment not only involves a comprehensive analysis of all hardware and software but also includes the installation of policies and regulations that minimize the risk to organizations posed by the human element.
First, you need to understand vulnerabilities and how to spot them before you can deploy mitigation strategies.
You locate vulnerabilities through penetration testing. The goal is to locate chinks in your organization’s armor before bad actors can exploit them. This way, they can be ranked according to priority and have the appropriate amount of resources invested in addressing them.
You can jump-start this entire process through the use of vulnerability databases. Instead of investing time and effort into locating the problems in your software, you can use databases that track, collect, and share all known vulnerabilities so you can avoid doing the legwork and instantly jump to the mitigation and prevention stages instead.
Once you understand your vulnerabilities, you can take direct action to fix them. In practical terms, this means closing ports that are unused, patching software and firmware, and reducing the number of moving parts in your system done in accordance with a cost/benefit analysis.
Now move on to mitigation strategies. This means reducing the attack surface of your systems. Similar to how a professional boxer stands facing his opponents sideways, you want to reduce the area that is open to attack by presenting the smallest profile possible to cyber criminals. You can use threat intelligence, entity behavior analytics, and intrusion detection and prevention technology to make this happen.
One of the best tools an organization can use is the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures system. This system allows you to assign a vulnerability score to every single weakness that is found.
This allows even those unfamiliar with the technical details to understand the threat level of each vulnerability, so they can use the Common Vulnerability Scoring System to start making decisions immediately. This is similar to the Oracle Database Security Assessment Tool thatOracle services offer as part of the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure console.
There are lots of practical decisions an organization can make to mitigate its risks.
1. Implementation of security controls.
Depending on the kinds of vulnerabilities found, you want to establish security controls to mitigate any risk of threats.
This is done through the implementation of policies and procedures and other technical safeguards put in place to protect your assets. There are four main controls you can use.
- Access controls – Access controls allow you to physically restrict access to an asset with security guards, perimeter fences, locks, biometric scans, and other authorization tools.
- Procedural controls – Procedural controls involve training your employees and all key personnel on situational awareness, and security framework compliance training, along with having a robust incident response plan in place.
- Technical controls – Technical controls involve technologies such as anti-virus tools, firewalls, and multi-factor authentication protocols.
- Compliance controls – Compliance controls involve making your staff familiar with cybersecurity frameworks and industry standards.
All of these controls allow you to locate the origin of risks, help address any risks that have already been found, and prevent future risks to the organization.
2. Implementation of incident response plans.
An incident response plan is a specific set of rules or a standard operating procedure for personnel to follow in the event of a cybersecurity risk.
Having a response plan allows you to proactively address risks by working with security analysts, threat researchers, and incident response teams to assess and resolve problems.
This plan must involve important stakeholders such as human resources, IT security, public relations experts, legal counsel, and even the chief information security officer to come together and form a protocol that everyone agrees upon.
Not only will these plans be useful for cybersecurity threats, but they will also allow your employees to continue productivity when faced with natural disasters and other unprecedented challenges. Rather than waiting for disaster to strike and scrambling to create a response, building the infrastructure necessary to allow your teams to work remotely will help you limit downtime and support workforce communication during critical times.
Vulnerability assessment should take place before the deployment of new systems, during the upgrades of existing systems, and after previous vulnerabilities have been patched.
The entire process of scanning, testing, analysis, and report preparation takes 1 to 2 months.
All applications and infrastructure must be in their final state. All user access must be frozen and disabled. This ensures an optimal assessment environment.
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