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What is a Vulnerability Assessment?

Oct 13, 2020


The First Step in Cybersecurity and Software Vulnerability Remediation


The Basics of Software Vulnerability Assessment

A vulnerability assessment is a procedure that identifies, analyzes, and reports on software exploits and vulnerabilities found within a digital ecosystem. From endpoints to third-party apps to operating systems, the goal of a vulnerability assessment is to uncover unknown security vulnerabilities for the purpose of remediation if a software patch is available.

Vulnerability assessments can be conducted manually or performed automatically on a regular basis by vulnerability management platforms. Platforms like TOPIA take a lot of the work out of the equation while providing data-rich reports so IT teams can focus their efforts on remediating the highest risk threats, and the CISO can make informed cybersecurity policy adjustments as needed.

In a nutshell, the vulnerability assessment's job is the mitigation of software threats by providing actionable vulnerability assessment reports.

 

Why Are Vulnerability Assessments Necessary?

In 2019, at least 20,362 new software vulnerabilities were publicly disclosed. That’s a 17.6-24% increase from 2018 depending on where you get your statistics. What doesn’t depend on where you get your numbers is the fact that the number of new software vulnerabilities has been trending dramatically upwards since 2016.

Given the above and the constant presence of cybersecurity breaches in the media, it’s safe to say that software vulnerabilities aren’t going away any time soon. It’s up to individual organizations to ensure they minimize the risk they face when it comes to the myriad cyber threats that could threaten day to day business.

Vulnerability assessments are fundamental to every business continuity plan, from SMEs to large corporations. 43% of cyber attacks are aimed at small businesses, and the worldwide cost of cyber attacks is expected to reach $5.2 trillion within five years. The US Department of Homeland Security has estimated that 90% of all cyberattacks, many of which lead to data breaches, are enabled by vulnerable software. The majority of these vulnerabilities can be remediated by taking protective measures.

The average enterprise deploys hundreds of applications and endpoints at any given time. The number of software vulnerabilities or security misconfigurations within in-house servers, clouds, or hybrids is impossible to ascertain without supporting security software. To ensure such an intricate ecosystem is protected, it's imperative to use vulnerability assessment tools that streamline the process.

 

The Vulnerability Assessment Process

Keeping yourself from becoming a victim of cyberattacks requires the consistent implementation of application risk assessments. The most common method used to perform these assessments is through the use of automated vulnerability scanning software. This software scans every corner of your technological infrastructure and compares the data to databases of common vulnerabilities and exposures to identify vulnerabilities within your unique software and asset ecosystem.

Next, the found flaws can by analyzed and given a risk level. Through prioritizing the identified risks, the assessment process empowers you to target the software vulnerabilities that pose the most risk to your organization. Finally, the software can be remediated with a patch if one is available.

This cycle should be repeated regularly or whenever new services and equipment are added to the existing infrastructure. These vulnerability assessments should also be reviewed and audited for effectiveness. This routine security maintenance ensures your organization is as secure as possible.

 

What If There Isn’t a Fix?

Patches aren’t always available for an application when a security flaw is discovered by a vulnerability assessment or publicly disclosed by technology companies. It can take months for a patch to get developed, tested, and implemented. Some applications are no longer supported or can’t be patched, yet they remain essential to business.

To keep your organization secure without patching, Vicarius’ TOPIA offers Patch-less Protection. Metaphorically speaking, Patchless Protection encloses vulnerable applications in a digital force-field that limits access and how it interacts with the operating system and other applications. Security weaknesses that can't be remediated can be mitigated.

 

The Moral of the Story

Vulnerability assessments are an important part of a comprehensive cybersecurity regimen, but they only provide data. It’s up to the IT department or CISO to act on the information provided. Vulnerability management platforms like TOPIA streamline this job through the identification of flaws, analyzing the risk, and rating their threat level so informed decisions can be made and policies implemented.

Vulnerability management platforms can also provide patch testing and network-wide patch implementation with just a couple of clicks. If a patch is available, a platform like TOPIA allows easy access from one dashboard—and protects you if there isn’t one.

All in all, vulnerability assessments are only useful if they run routinely and the provided reports are beneficial. Be sure to use a vulnerability management platform that automates the process and makes implementation easy so your organization can maintain a robust security posture.

 

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Written by

Kent Weigle

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