The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recently made vulnerability and patch management a compliance standard for federal agencies. Given only 60 days to update these policies, many agencies have found it difficult to develop the necessary management programs.
Your organization is probably not a federal agency, so you are not held to this new standard. However, patch and vulnerability management is important for all organizations, federal agencies or not. And needless to say, this is not a simple one-and-done process. Proper patch management requires a continued investment of your organization’s resources.
To help your company adopt a sound vulnerability and patch management program, we’ve put together this guide.
In it, we cover:
- What vulnerability and patch management is
- The benefits of vulnerability and patch management
- Why vulnerability and patch management is important to cyber security
- The differences between vulnerability and patch management
- Vulnerability and patch management processes
What Is Vulnerability Management?
Vulnerability management is the practice of controlling security vulnerabilities throughout their entire lifespan.
Your IT team scans all computers (and user activity) on a given network, whether they are desktops or servers, and then returns a report with a list of identified vulnerabilities.
From there, your IT team can perform vulnerability discovery and evaluate what those vulnerabilities mean for your company.
If you’re new to the topic of vulnerability management, check out our post on how to protect your company from cyber-attacks.
Benefits of Vulnerability Management
Vulnerability management helps your company identify and resolve possible security risks before they become major cybersecurity threats.
Vulnerability management offers you consolidated, accurate, and up-to-date data on the security posture of your entire enterprise.
It also provides you with a real-time top-down view of potential threats and weaknesses to all network-connected employees.
If you’re interested in saving on security costs and helping your IT team by shouldering security tasks, you may be interested in managed detection and response (MDR).
The Vulnerability Management Process
Your company’s vulnerability management life cycle can be broken down into four distinct steps or processes.
- Change Implementation
Vulnerability scanners detect a wide range of systems on a network, including laptops and desktop computers.
Operating systems, user accounts, installed applications, system settings, open ports, file system structure, and other features are probed on identified computers.
The data is then used to link known vulnerabilities with the scanned systems within your organization.
Vulnerability management systems provide you with various risk ratings and vulnerability scores, such as Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) scores or the more comprehensive Context-Aware Vulnerability Prioritization (CAVP) system.
At Pareto Cyber, we recommend using the following process for automating your vulnerability assessments:
- Ensure a strong asset management program is in place.
- Create an enterprisewide CVE database of all vulnerabilities
- Perform environmental vulnerability scans (workstations, servers, code, cloud, network, etc.)
- Define temporal metrics & calculate CAVSS score. Base the score on core exploit factors, such as exploit maturity, remediation effort, accuracy confidence, dark web sales, other vuln intel categories
- Add asset & business context to scoring systems (external facing, critical applications, containing PII or sensitive data)
- Vulnerability Prioritization & Visualization.
These rankings can help you choose which vulnerabilities to prioritize.
However, accurately assessing the real dangers to your organization is more complicated than a simple assessment. Vulnerability scanners aren’t flawless. They can produce false positives when identifying vulnerabilities.
Using penetration testing tools and methodologies to validate vulnerabilities helps you eliminate these false positives.
So, it’s recommended that you combine the outcomes of your vulnerability assessment with full-fledged penetration testing.
Remediation can be as easy as deploying a widely accessible software patch or as involved as rebuilding your organization’s physical servers.
There are several approaches you can take to treat vulnerabilities. These include repairing or patching a vulnerability that can’t be exploited.
“Patching” allows you to buy time for your organization until the vulnerability is fixed.
When your remediation operations are finished, you must perform another vulnerability check to ensure the issue has been fully resolved.
You can get a handle on the pace and efficiency of your vulnerability management program over time by conducting frequent vulnerability assessments.
Different ways for exporting and viewing vulnerability scan results are commonly available in vulnerability management solutions.
This enables your IT team to quickly determine which remediation strategies will allow them to address the greatest amount of vulnerabilities with the least amount of work.
What Is Patch Management?
Patch management is the process of delivering and installing software updates.
Cyber security patch management ensures that your environment’s assets are not vulnerable to exploitation.
Patch management is important for ensuring that you have the most up-to-date version of a product for security as well as compliance. With the ongoing growth in cyber-attacks, regulatory authorities are compelling firms more and more to adhere to certain compliance standards.
If you’re interested in assessing the gaps in your security posture and potential compliance issues within your organization, you might consider a managed cyber risk and compliance service.
Benefits of Patch Management
Patch management means correcting software flaws to keep your systems operational.
This could potentially grant your business the ability to scale the deployment of software development.
As mentioned above, if your organization is not patching and not satisfying compliance rules, you could face fines.
Additionally, there are a host of benefits that come with automating patch management and threat remediation.
The Patch Management Process
Cyber security patch management adheres to the following ordered steps:
- Developing an inventory of production systems
- Standardizing operating system versions
- Listing and organization security controls
- Comparing vulnerabilities with inventory
- Classifying, testing, and patching
- Documenting progress
Developing an Inventory of Production Systems
Create an up-to-date inventory of all your manufacturing systems.
This is the only method to accurately monitor the assets in your ecosystem. The more regularly you keep track of your assets, the more informed you’ll be.
This way, you’ll have a clear picture of the operating systems and version types that exist.
Standardizing Operating System Versions
You’ll want to standardize your assets to a reasonable level so that your remediation process will speed up when new patches are published.
This will save you and your technical team time spent on remediation.
Standardizing your asset catalog, while tough to implement, makes patching faster and more efficient.
Listing and Organizing Security Controls
You’ll need to know where your antivirus, vulnerability management technologies, and firewalls are and which assets they protect.
Make a list of all the security mechanisms in place in your business. Organize them accordingly, by asset, priority, etc.
Comparing Vulnerabilities With Inventory
Use your vulnerability management solution to determine which vulnerabilities exist (for each given asset) in your ecosystem. This will help you better comprehend your organization’s current security risks.
Next, compare disclosed vulnerabilities to your inventory to see whether any modifications are required before the end of the year.
Classifying, Testing, and Patching
Vulnerability management tools can assist you in assessing your organization’s risk and determining what needs to be remedied.
You can then simply manage which assets are considered vital and which are not.
Before attempting to put your assets into production, test your lab environment on a representative sample of assets.
Consider applying the needed changes to batches of assets to prevent unexpected outcomes from occurring in production.
Keep track of your progress and be sure to review it at regular time intervals throughout the year, not only when you are starting a new policy or implementing a new tool.
Check each asset to make certain that your repair and patching was successful.
Vulnerability Management VS Patch Management
Vulnerability management and patch management are very much linked.
To fulfill their respective objectives, your IT and security teams must work closely together.
The IT team must occasionally choose between vulnerability or patch management efforts when attempting to solve an issue.
Keep in mind that having a reliable patch management strategy is crucial because it will not warn you whether a piece of software has a vulnerability.
Why Is Vulnerability and Patch Management Important in Cyber Security?
On average, enterprises experience 130 security breaches each year per business.
Additionally, Cybercrime is expected to cost the globe $10.5 trillion per year by 2025.
Patch and vulnerability management are basic components of any cybersecurity program. To defend your organization from the expanding volume and sophistication of cyber threats confronting enterprises, you’ll need to adopt a proactive strategy.
Your Vulnerability and Patch Management Policy With Pareto Cyber
Having separate procedures for patch management and vulnerability assessments is critical.
These policies aid in the transition of your cyber security program from development to operationalization.
Remember that while developing a vulnerability and patch management strategy, you’ll likely need the support of many stakeholders.
If you’d like to better understand how Pareto Cyber can help you develop a vulnerability and patch management policy, schedule a free demo with us here.