5 Efficient Strategies For Addressing Security Vulnerabilities

2021-08-10by Clayton Richard

The issue of security has become more important over the last few years. A growing number of organizations are now putting more focus on their security because of the rise of attacks and threats online.

A report published by Retarus showed that malware attacks increased by 358 percent from 2019 to 2020, with the last year holding a record number of attacks. These attacks are used to find ways to get into a network's security and create as much havoc as they can. In fact, COVID-19 was used by cyber attackers as the impetus for increasing their attack attempts because they see the profit that can be gained if a network is compromised during these already challenging times.

Cybersecurity lapses

It is unfortunate that the shift from on-premise work to work-at-home or hybrid work arrangements to address the challenges brought about by the pandemic has also been a reason for these increased attacks. Many organizations were caught flat-footed by this shift. Their network infrastructure was not calibrated for the increase in network traffic that would come from remotely from different locations.

Furthermore, many organizations may have implemented security measures as part of their standard operating procedures, but they did not account for system integrity in the face of multiple channels and locations for accessing their network. Thus, most organizations only have rudimentary securities in place and their networks have not been assessed for integrity by implementing continuous security validation and other security measures.

One of the most common points of entry for cybersecurity attacks is an organization’s website or the apps they use. According to an article published in Forbes, almost 30,000 websites are hacked every single day and are then used as vectors for mounting more damaging attacks that target the organization’s network or use it to spread malicious code that then infects other networks.

Left unchecked, these vulnerabilities can cost organizations numerous problems and losses. On average a business can lose potentially $200,000 because of security breaches. More worrisome, sixty percent of businesses would go out of business within six months of being attacked.

Addressing security vulnerabilities

Organizations stand to lose much if security vulnerabilities are not addressed or are overlooked. CERT reported that an alarming 85 percent of attacks are perpetrated through vulnerabilities and configuration errors.

The way to protect your organization is by addressing these security vulnerabilities in your website or apps. Taking a proactive stance to look for these potential exploits and weaknesses is what will enhance the security and integrity of your organization’s infrastructure.

There are a number of strategies you can implement to address these security vulnerabilities.

1.  System discovery

The first step in addressing your organization’s vulnerabilities is having a clear perspective of your network by using assessment tools or by using network mapping software. These tools will allow you to scan your entire network to identify the TCP/IP addresses that are being used as well as all the devices that are using them. Once you have this information you can have a better idea of which systems should be prioritized for protection.

2. Assessment of vulnerabilities

The next step after system discovery is assessing the vulnerabilities of the network. By using assessment tools, one can look for existing vulnerabilities in the system. These tools will look for defects in the software used in apps or exploits from within the website. This can also include unsecured accounts, undetected back doors, or even something as basic as wrong configurations.

A good rule of thumb is to use different assessment tools and scanners and not just rely on one so you can gain a more thorough sweep of vulnerabilities. For example, the MITRE ATT&CK knowledge base contains an always-updated list of adversary tactics and techniques used by malicious actors. The best tools will be robust enough to look for vulnerabilities based on the MITRE ATT&CK knowledge base and do it regularly.

3. Review of network vulnerabilities

Upon finishing the assessment, the next step is to review the generated report of vulnerabilities. This can be an exhaustive list especially if different assessment tools are used. But it should be noted that not everything on the list should be fixed. There are certain vulnerabilities that can be considered non-critical while some should be left alone because fixing them could actually interrupt certain crucial network operations.

The purpose of the review is to identify which of these vulnerabilities are deemed critical and should be fixed immediately.

4. Vulnerability resolution

Upon identification of which vulnerabilities are deemed a top priority for a solution, the next step is resolving it. The organization’s administrators and IT departments can decide what resolution option they should use.

For small organizations or a business with a small network, manual remediation will usually work. This involves following the steps recommended by the vulnerability scanner and fixing the identified issues.

Another option is to use patch deployment tools that deploy patches or fixes to these vulnerabilities. But this option only resolves problems that can be fixed through a patch. It should be noted that these patch deployment tools don’t usually integrate fully with vulnerability scanners. After deploying the patch or hotfix, the network should be rescanned with another vulnerability scanner to check if the fix was successful and to assess if there are any crucial vulnerabilities that were not fixed.

A third option is using automated remediation tools. This is often seen as the most effective option for organizations that want a faster and more thorough implementation of fixes for the organization’s infrastructure. These tools deploy patches and hotfixes, but an additional feature is being able to fix other vulnerabilities identified by the scanners. Administrators also have more control in identifying which vulnerabilities will be repaired and even when they will be repaired.

5. Continuous vulnerability management

After the fixes have been deployed and problems have been fixed, there needs to be ongoing and continuous scanning for vulnerabilities. Most organizations forget this, assuming that fixing vulnerabilities already eliminate their problems once and for all. But that fact is that new vulnerabilities come out and there are even rare cases that a fix for a particular vulnerability will open up new vulnerabilities. Implementing continuous security validation is a good and prudent way of ensuring security and integrity within your organization’s IT infrastructure.

A recent article published by PBS revealed that ransomware attacks worldwide rose by 62 percent between 2019 and 2020. The increase in attacks within North America is, even more, alarming with a recorded rise of 158 percent based on a report published by SonicWall in 2021. This means that vulnerabilities and attacks from malicious actors will not wane but, instead, is likely to increase over the years.

Implementing a sound strategy in ensuring that security vulnerabilities in your organization will ensure that you won’t fall victim to these attacks and save your organization from catastrophic security problems.

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