The Future of Vulnerability Management Programs

August 23, 2018 Ayala Goldstein

Vulnerability Management Program

In 2017, the number of security vulnerabilities published on the National Vulnerability Database (NVD) rose by 130% compared to the previous year. The alarming spike in security vulnerabilities along with headline-catching exploits like last year’s Equifax data breach have security teams continuously updating and upgrading their vulnerability management programs to ensure that they are not exposed to malicious attacks.

Considering the fact that hackers are closely tracking published vulnerabilities in order to find their next big exploit, software organizations need to make sure that they are one step ahead of the bad guys with a vulnerability management process that can detect, track, and ease the remediation process of any security vulnerability that lies in their systems.

Keeping Your Vulnerability Management Program Current

While vulnerability management programs are not a new concept, today’s dynamic software development ecosystem and the evolving capabilities of hackers demand that organizations keep their vulnerability management processes current, and make sure that they are prepared for any threat that might come their way.

A vulnerability management plan usually consists of three main parts: identification, prioritization, and remediation. Each one of these steps is constantly evolving to address new environments and risks, with the goal of making the process more manageable for overworked security teams. Let’s take a look at each of these parts to see how organizations can ensure that they are prepared for any security threat coming their way.

Vulnerability Identification Processes: Scanning it Up

Until recently, much of an organization’s mandatory vulnerability management program relied predominantly on scanning tools. Teams would perform mandatory monthly or quarterly configuration audits and network scans, which would produce lengthy reports that no team could cover completely. This meant organizations invested a lot of time attempting to address all reported threats, never quite succeeding in resolving them all.

Evolving development ecosystems, fast-paced development demands, and the rise in the number of known security vulnerabilities requires a new approach to vulnerability identification and automated scanning tools for a variety of systems and platforms.

Organizations looking forward have to make sure that they know exactly which software components and platforms they are using, and whether they contain newly discovered vulnerabilities. This requires a number of tools for continuously tracking the components in your development environment and products, along with data regarding vulnerabilities.

Tracking All the Layers

In addition to covering traditional network infrastructure, organizations need to ensure that they are efficiently scanning a much broader attack surface that consists of dynamic assets like cloud services  and containers. These new types of platforms are more difficult to track with traditional tools, because they might not be continuously running on the network.

But wait — there are still more layers that have become extremely vulnerable to attacks that need tracking, like the database layer, and the application layers that require SAST and DAST tools.

Another security risk that lies within today’s complex and dynamic systems are open source vulnerabilities. Open source components are an essential building block for developers, and are backed by an active community that does its best to uncover and create fixes for vulnerabilities in their projects. An organization that wants to face present and future threats must include dedicated automatic tools that manage open source components and their risks, because traditional SAST and DAST tools simply don’t cover those. Instead, organizations need to adopt advanced Software Composition Analysis technologies that provide them with the capabilities to detect, monitor, and alert on vulnerable open source components.

If organizations want to keep up with the hectic pace of development, all of these tools need to be integrated into the earliest stages of the software development lifecycle, so that any vulnerabilities found can be addressed and mitigated without throwing production off schedule.

Prioritize: Staying on Top of Vulnerability Alerts

Traditionally, the vulnerability management programs put a lot of focus on identification and detection. However, organizations that track all of the layers and risks listed above, are at risk of being buried under a never ending list of security alerts for all of the vulnerabilities detected.

Not all vulnerabilities are created equal, and organizations can’t afford to blindly plow their way through hundreds of newly discovered vulnerabilities, hoping that they hit the ones that pose the biggest threat. If companies want to stay on top of security, they have to start prioritizing their vulnerability management.

Tomorrow's vulnerability management software helps teams to prioritize the biggest risks that can be most damaging to an organization. Advanced solutions will include threat intelligence insights and tools that allow vulnerability data to be integrated with risk assessment and remediation in order to help teams address the riskiest issues first based on parameters like their impact on the code.

Vulnerability Remediation: The Right Way

After locating all security vulnerabilities in the system and determining which are the most critical, automatic remediation and mitigation that can be easily tracked are the next step. Having a patch management policy in place that tests and applies the right patches to all affected areas in an efficient and timely manner is essential.

Tomorrow’s patch management solutions will help teams work together to ensure that security patches are rolled out efficiently, based on vulnerability prioritization, that patches are tested and don’t interfere with other components and processes, and helps all teams involved in the process to work together so that the entire vulnerability management process runs smoothly.

The Future Starts Now

As threat landscapes expand, vulnerability management programs are expected to integrate new solutions that will help them remain ahead of the hackers and avoid being featured in any messy headlines.

Organizations that are able to put a program in place that allows them to continuously track their systems, providing actionable prioritization insights and enabling patch management, can look forward to a bright future of smooth sprints and easy releases.  

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