If you have read/ heard about the big data breaches of the 21st century, you are probably aware that cyber-attackers are continuously finding ways to access confidential data by exploiting weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the systems/ network/ applications.
What you may not know is that the size of the business does not matter to attackers and that they will exploit vulnerabilities if they exist. Often, small and medium businesses tend to ignore cybersecurity and end up victims of vicious cyber-attacks that leave them in dire straits. So, cybersecurity must not be taken lightly in today’s day and age. One of the important and first steps towards proactive security is vulnerability assessment.
It is the comprehensive process through which the inherent weaknesses and security gaps in the systems, applications, and networks are highlighted. Vulnerability assessment tools include web vulnerability scanners, network scanning software, protocol scanners, assessment software, manual pen-testing, etc.
Vulnerability assessment involves scanning of the application and its diverse components, proactive identification of vulnerabilities and assessing the nature and potential magnitude of a successful exploit of each of the vulnerabilities. Scanning is followed by testing to simulate attacks and understand how an attacker could potentially exploit vulnerabilities. Based on the findings, the security/ IT/ development team can prioritize critical vulnerabilities and focus on fixing them while placing a security solution to secure the rest of the vulnerabilities until they are fixed.
For the assessment to be comprehensive and its insights useful for vulnerability management, you must choose the right set of tools for assessment. In choosing the right set of tools, you need to start with your unique business and application/ website contexts and needs. Compare the features of the tools based on these unique needs and contexts as well as the results of a demo/ trial version assessment of your live/ near-live application. Leverage the power of automation (in scanning as it can cover a large surface area in an expedited fashion with minimal scope for errors) combined with the power of human intelligence and expertise (for pen-testing, security audits, designing remediation, etc.) that managed solutions provider.
Choose an intelligent, comprehensive and managed the set of tools that can be customized and tuned continuously for your changing needs and whose reports are instant and insights actionable.
Assessments cannot be ad hoc; they must be planned. Start with the identification and mapping out of all your digital assets, systems, affiliated and third-party systems and processes, IT infrastructure, devices, applications, servers, databases, content management systems, development frameworks, ports, etc. and gathering all possible information on the network infrastructure to get a holistic picture of your business’ IT assets and the criticality of each of these assets.
Put together a properly defined set of goals, scope, expected outcomes, etc. for each component of the assessments. Make a threat model and define which areas to target in scanning, testing and so on with the objective of identifying the maximum number of critical vulnerabilities in your application.
Vulnerability scanning must be done on an everyday basis and after any major business/ application/ network changes without interfering with the speed of your application or network – cloud-based, comprehensive, automated, customizable and intelligent solutions like AppTrana work very well in uncovering a wide range of known vulnerabilities.
Vulnerability testing in the form of manual pen-testing and security audits needs to be scheduled on a quarterly basis to effectively identify unknown vulnerabilities, business logic flaws, misconfigurations and other weaknesses that automated scanning tools miss.
During the vulnerability assessment process, you must take steps to filter out false positives as these lead to wastage of your precious resources including time and money. You must also create evidence and proof of concept during the assessment process.
Kickstart your vulnerability assessment process today with the help of this checklist.
Ashish Pradhan is responsible for all technology functions like engineering, client services and customer support at Indusface. Prior to joining Indusface, Ashish held various senior leadership roles at Symantec Corporation in India and USA. During his 25 years of global experience in the software industry, Ashish has helped create and grow a broad variety of software products spanning systems management, IT compliance, and information security domains.