For your organization to discover cybersecurity vulnerabilities before they turn into full-blown threats, you need the guidance of a robust set of standards like the CIS vulnerability scanning requirements, which can guide your implementation of threat and vulnerability management controls. Read on to learn how these requirements can optimize your security posture.
What are the CIS Vulnerability Scanning Requirements?
Vulnerability management is critical to helping organizations mitigate cybersecurity risks before they develop into serious threats which can affect data security and business continuity.
To understand the full scope of CIS vulnerability scanning requirements, you need to know:
- What the CIS is and how the Critical Security Controls can benefit you
- The CIS vulnerability scanning requirements for vulnerability management
- The CIS vulnerability scanning requirements for patch management
- The CIS Control 7 safeguards for vulnerability scans
Compliance with CIS requirements will help you establish a robust vulnerability management program, especially when partnering with a threat and vulnerability management specialist.
What is the Center for Internet Security (CIS)?
The Center for Internet Security (CIS) was established to help organizations safeguard their IT systems from common cybersecurity threats. As a community-driven nonprofit, the CIS is a resource for any organization looking to optimize and strengthen its security posture. To help organizations implement industry-standard security controls, the Center for Internet Security gathers knowledge and expertise from global IT security experts to inform current and future cybersecurity best practices. These practices are the Critical Security Controls (CIS Controls).
CIS Critical Security Controls (CIS Controls) and Implementation Groups
When the CIS Controls were first established, the Center for Internet Security hoped these controls would help organizations implement best practices to safeguard their IT assets from data breaches. The CIS controls have since evolved into a framework that enables you to:
- Develop effective strategies to mitigate cyberattacks
- Share insights on robust cybersecurity tools and technologies
- Map the requirements of the CIS controls to regulatory and compliance frameworks
- Optimize cybersecurity assessments and implementation roadmaps
The most recent edition of the CIS Controls, v8, comprises 18 controls and a total of 153 individual safeguards, distributed across three implementation groups:
- Implementation Group (IG1) – Organizations are expected to observe a minimum standard of security hygiene by implementing essential cybersecurity practices to prevent non-targeted cyberattacks.
- Implementation Group (IG2) – Entities whose operations constitute various cybersecurity risk levels can leverage IG2 controls to safeguard their IT assets from complex security risks.
- Implementation Group (IG3) – Enterprises with dedicated IT security teams can rely on IG3 controls to mitigate sophisticated cybersecurity attacks from unfolding.
Given the volume of safeguards listed in each control and the broader collection of CIS Controls, organizations must identify which safeguards will work best for their unique security needs. CIS vulnerability scanning requirements in particular are housed within Control 7.
Each of the safeguards listed under CIS Control 7 is mapped to an implementation group, making it easier for entities to streamline their security. Requirements 7.1 to 7.4 apply to all three IGs, whereas Requirements 7.5 to 7.7 apply only to Implementation Groups 2 and 3.
CIS Control 7 Requirements for Vulnerability Management
CIS vulnerability scanning Requirements 7.1 and 7.2 provide guidance for developing processes to manage and remediate security vulnerabilities. Vulnerability management starts with building robust assessment tools and processes, and ensuring that vulnerabilities are addressed promptly to mitigate the risks that they will evolve into security threats.
Requirement 7.1 – Processes for Managing Security Vulnerabilities
Compliance with CIS Control Requirement 7.1 involves implementing processes for vulnerability management across all enterprise IT assets. It is critical to document the processes you use for vulnerability management from their inception, ensuring these processes are continuously updated to minimize gaps in their implementation.
Vulnerability management considerations pertaining to Requirement 7.1 include:
- Establishing a vulnerability monitoring framework – In many cases, organizations are unaware of which threats might present risks to their assets. Rather than treating each potential threat as “dangerous” or missing sophisticated threats, a vulnerability monitoring framework can help:
- Identify at-risk critical assets in your infrastructure (e.g., cloud servers)
- Classify threat risks based on validated threat intelligence
- Discover risks that contribute to vulnerabilities (e.g., access control gaps)
- Developing threat intelligence tools – Sophisticated threats like advanced persistent threats (APTs) can be easily detected with the help of optimized threat intelligence tools such as open-source threat intelligence (OSINT). Threat intelligence tools will help you:
- Identify threats more effectively based on their signatures
- Manage security risks based on threat patterns
- Guide the development of incident management protocols
- Pen testing assets – Whether you have just a few assets in your IT infrastructure or you have multiple inter-connected assets, penetration testing can help you detect security vulnerabilities promptly before they develop into full-blown threats.
When implementing these processes within a threat and vulnerability management program, documenting each process from start to finish will help minimize any lapses in overall documentation that could affect overall security implementation in the long term.
Requirement 7.2 – Processes for Remediating Security Vulnerabilities
Under CIS Control Requirement 7.2, any vulnerabilities detected following a CIS security assessment must be remediated promptly, upon discovery. And, for vulnerability remediation efforts to be successful, there must be a plan of action in place. Although remediation can be conducted via manual or automated means (see Requirement 7.7 below), the latter is usually more effective as automation minimizes the risk of lapses in threat detection and mitigation.
As a best practice for complying with the CIS vulnerability scanning requirements, vulnerability remediation should work hand-in-hand with security assessments. And, it should not stop at a single security assessment. Rather, vulnerability remediation should be an ongoing process involving audits and feedback sessions between IT security teams and assessment specialists aimed at minimizing the risks posed by new or existing vulnerabilities.
CIS Control 7 Requirements For Patch Management
Patch management is critical to securing your organization’s digital assets from security threats. One of the leading causes of recent data breaches is digital assets going unpatched for weeks to months, which results in exploitable vulnerabilities.
Developing reliable, consistent, and effective processes for patch management will help protect your organization from potential security threats.
Requirement 7.3 – Operating System Patch Management
Per CIS Control Requirement 7.3, you should establish processes to automate patch management of operating systems on a routine schedule—typically monthly, or as determined by industry or regulatory compliance requirements. Operating systems are critical to keeping your applications or devices working and must therefore be patched frequently.
Patching is increasingly essential if you have hundreds of devices running on a single operating system. As each device’s firmware becomes outdated, patching will help reduce security vulnerabilities and minimize asset downtime.
Requirement 7.4 – Application Patch Management
The CIS vulnerability scanning safeguards in Requirement 7.4 are similar to those in Requirement 7.3 for system patching, except they apply to applications. Any apps running on enterprise assets must also be patched routinely—at least monthly—to mitigate security threats.
Some of the top recommendations for patching and securing vulnerable applications include:
- Centralizing patch deployment via developing and implementing automated tools
- Standardizing patch management processes across your organization
- Testing patches before they are rolled out to identify any issues beforehand
Depending on the flexibility of your organization’s work environment, IT security teams can set critical security patches to automatically deploy outside of typical business hours, such as on weekends or overnight on weekdays.
CIS Control 7 Requirements For Vulnerability Scans
Protecting your internal and external enterprise assets is critical to mitigating the risks of data breaches, especially when guided by the CIS vulnerability scanning requirements.
Enterprise assets typically include:
- End-user devices (e.g., mobile devices, laptops, workstations)
- Network devices (e.g., routers, virtual private networks (VPNs))
- Internet of Things (IoT) devices (e.g., cameras, refrigerators)
- Virtual, cloud-based, or physical servers
The most effective way to conduct vulnerability scans of internal and external assets is to leverage CIS vulnerability scanners. These are specialized tools that have been developed based on standardized vulnerability classification schemes and languages, such as:
- The Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) list
- Common Configuration Enumeration (CCE)
- Open Vulnerability and Assessment Language (OVAL)
- Common Platform Enumeration (CPE)
- Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS)
- Extensible Configuration Checklist Description Format (XCCDF)
All of the above resources are based on the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Security Content Automation Protocol (SCAP) standards. And SCAP standardizes the communication of software flaws and security configurations between users and machines alike.
Requirement 7.5 – Vulnerability Scans of Internal Assets
To evaluate the security posture of your internal assets, CIS Control Requirement 7.5 mandates routine internal vulnerability scans at least quarterly or more frequently, depending on your security needs and other regulatory compliance requirements. Requirement 7.5 also mandates using authenticated and unauthenticated vulnerability scans when scanning internal threats.
Unauthenticated scans are conducted from an outsider’s perspective and help identify any vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can exploit to breach your cyber defenses. On the other hand, authenticated scans take on an insider perspective and can help determine which assets are at high risk of compromise, should an attack occur.
Although vulnerability scanning tools can help you identify common vulnerabilities, the best way to scan your internal assets for vulnerabilities is to develop an optimized approach that accounts for your organization-specific assets and industry needs.
Working with a threat and vulnerability management specialist will help you identify effective approaches to internally scanning assets for vulnerabilities while meeting the CIS vulnerability scanning requirements.
Requirement 7.6 – Vulnerability Scans of Externally-Exposed Assets
Implementing a high standard of security hygiene is even more critical when it comes to assets that are exposed externally. Unlike internal assets, for which you can control exposure to most malicious traffic, externally-exposed assets may be prone to frequent security threats.
Similar to the CIS vulnerability scanning safeguards listed in Requirement 7.5, all externally exposed assets must be scanned at least quarterly or more frequently, depending on your security needs or regulatory compliance stipulations. Additionally, all vulnerability scanning of these assets must be conducted with CIS vulnerability scanners that meet the SCAP standards.
Requirement 7.7 – Remediation of Discovered Vulnerabilities
Per CIS Control Requirement 7.7, any vulnerabilities detected during a scan of your IT assets must be remediated promptly using the processes or tools defined in your remediation process (see Requirement 7.2). Measures you might consider for vulnerability remediation include:
- Patching vulnerabilities upon discovery (see Requirements 7.3 and 7.4 above)
- Switching off the assets containing vulnerabilities if the threat risk is too high
- Uninstalling applications or systems from assets containing vulnerabilities
- Modifying system configurations to avoid the risks posed by vulnerabilities
- Upgrading assets to newer versions with updated security standards
In some cases, layering the processes involved in vulnerability remediation and incorporating industry-recognized security configurations and best practices will help streamline overall vulnerability management and keep your assets safe from vulnerabilities year-round.
Most importantly, your threat and vulnerability management processes and infrastructure must evolve with the changes in technology across the global IT landscape. Without a robust system in place to monitor emerging vulnerabilities, your IT assets will likely be at higher risk of cyberattacks and subsequent data breaches.
Working with a leading expert on threat and vulnerability management will help you implement robust vulnerability scanning, assessment, and remediation processes that will secure your assets. Implementing an iterative vulnerability scanning and remediation process is key to achieving a high standard of vulnerability management across your cyber defenses.
Develop Robust Processes for Threat and Vulnerability Management
Compliance with the CIS vulnerability scanning requirements will help you effectively manage vulnerabilities within your cyber defenses and secure your infrastructure from potential threats.
As an experienced threat and vulnerability management partner, RSI Security will help you optimize your existing vulnerability management processes, ensuring they meet the standards recommended by the Center for Internet Security and other security frameworks.
To learn more and get started, contact RSI Security today!
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