Preventing cyberattacks means accounting for vulnerabilities in your system, along with threats that could exploit them. There are innumerable kinds of vulnerability management systems, tools, and approaches, but most fall into passive, active, or targeted applications.
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How to Choose a Vulnerability Management System
Vulnerability management is the practice of accounting for and minimizing weaknesses in your security infrastructure so that threats are less likely to develop into full-blown incidents. There’s no shortage of approaches available to organizations seeking to mitigate and neutralize risks.
That said, most of the best approaches fall into one of three categories:
- Passive vulnerability management solutions and defenses
- Active vulnerability monitoring tools for preventive protection
- Focused vulnerability management tools for niche purposes
Working with a security program advisor will help you select the best vulnerability management system for your organization’s use cases, security maturity, and compliance or other needs.
Passive Threat and Vulnerability Management
The most straightforward approach to vulnerability management involves relying on sound cybersecurity infrastructure and architecture to make attacks less likely—or less damaging if they do happen. To do so, organizations will install perimeter defenses such as firewalls and content filters, along with network protections, and train their staff on security best practices.
Maintaining those controls forms a layer of defense that keeps risks at bay. This is because risks are defined as an expression of the relationship between vulnerabilities and threats:
- Vulnerabilities are weaknesses in your IT environment that could be exploited or compromised, such as missing or outdated software or gaps in staff awareness.
- Threats are agents and vectors that could exploit or compromise vulnerabilities, including cybercriminals, common attack patterns used, or natural disasters.
Risk illustrates how likely it is that a vulnerability will be exploited by a threat and the potential impact that would occur is that were to happen. Passive vulnerability management solutions mitigate risk by minimizing vulnerabilities. At their best, they should also identify and neutralize threats as soon as possible. Even stronger, though, is a solution that does so proactively.
Active Managed Detection and Response (MDR)
Organizations may also take a more proactive and preventive approach to vulnerability management, focusing more on the threats themselves than on the weaknesses they exploit.
This approach is often referred to as “threat hunting” or “detection and response.” It’s far more comprehensive than passive measures, typically covering all of the protections they include along with active measures for identifying and responding to threats—and full-blown incidents.
Working with a third party in a Managed Detection and Response (MDR) scheme can cover:
- Threat Detection – Organizations need to conduct regular, ideally automated scans of their entire IT environment and any networks or devices that it comes into contact with.
- Incident Response – Identifying a threat early allows response teams to respond to, quarantine, and neutralize it before it escalates and compromises sensitive assets.
- Root Cause Analysis – During and after threats are discovered and mitigated, MDR partners will analyze the reasons they developed and prevent them from reoccurring.
- Regulatory Compliance – All throughout the threat and vulnerability management process, MDR accounts for data privacy and breach reporting required for compliance.
As an added benefit, MDR works particularly well alongside robust incident management, which accounts for the entire lifecycle of an attack and streamlines long-term recovery and prevention.
Targeted and Niche Vulnerability Management
Other vulnerability management systems focus less on general vulnerabilities and threats and more on specific risks related to niche purposes. One of the most common use cases here is targeted vulnerability management for compliance with federal or industry-based regulations.
Typically, these systems target vulnerabilities and threats to specific kinds of protected data:
- PCI vulnerability management – Organizations that process credit card transactions or cardholder data (CHD) need to minimize vulnerabilities per the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standards (DSS). PCI DSS Requirement 12 mandates regular risk assessments, identifying and minimizing risks to CHD across all networks.
- HIPAA vulnerability management – Organizations in or adjacent to healthcare are required to safeguard protected health information (PHI) per the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The HIPAA Security Rule mandates risk and vulnerability assessments to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of PHI.
In addition, some compliance frameworks require organizations to minimize their own risks alongside vulnerabilities that their extended network of strategic partners exposes them to.
Third Party Risk Management (TPRM)
The most effective vulnerability management solutions, especially for compliance purposes, should include Third Party Risk Management (TPRM). This is a process of applying the same protections and monitoring infrastructure to your vendors, contractors, and other stakeholders that use organizational hardware and software and may come into contact with sensitive data.
If these parties are left unaccounted for, any vulnerabilities they introduce into your systems can compromise data. For this reason, many regulatory frameworks explicitly account for TPRM in their rules or enforcement. For example, HIPAA applies primarily to Covered Entities such as healthcare providers, plan administrators, and clearinghouses. But it also requires Business Associates of Covered Entities to follow the same rules and commit to protecting PHI.
Failing to account for third-party risks makes them just as dangerous as internal ones.
Optimize Your Vulnerability Management
RSI Security will help your organization strategize, implement, and maintain its vulnerability management system, regardless of what approach is best for your organization. We offer advisory and support services to streamline architecture installation, staff training, and monitoring. We’re committed to service above all else, helping your organization meet its security posture needs on your terms with whatever means make the most sense.
To get started optimizing your vulnerability management system, contact RSI Security today!