Vulnerability management is a set of systems and processes that detect, thwart and resolve real, potential threats to an organization’s entire IT ecosystem; on-premises, in the cloud and in your third parties’ environments. With companies relying heavily on tens, hundreds or even thousands of third parties, it is impossible to manually manage them all. Fortunately, Panorays offers an automated risk management platform that will continuously monitor your third parties and thoroughly assess a third party’s risk to your organization. 

The Role of Vulnerability Management in Cyber Risk

Taking a proactive approach to vulnerability management is imperative in today’s world, especially when organizations are so heavily dependent on their third parties. The number of cyberattacks, including data breaches, have been steadily rising over the last decade and are becoming more sophisticated as time passes. A study conducted by the Ponemon Institute found 56% of breaches are caused by vendors.

Cybercriminals are constantly searching for vulnerabilities in server software and end-user software, including operating systems and mobile apps. Many of those applications are from third-party vendors. Once a vulnerability is detected, cybercriminals commence an attack that often leaves businesses damaged or scrambling to recover.

Vulnerability management is critical to managing third-party cyber risk, but needs to be implemented in specific ways.

The following processes are typical of a vulnerability management plan.

1. Continuous, automatic processes like scanning and firewall logging

Protecting a network manually is impossible. Using automated software to run certain processes is the only way to identify and isolate threats. 

2. Network scanning

Network scanning is an automated process that continuously scans a network for active devices connected to the network. The software attempts to identify the connected devices and the user associated with the device to determine whether or not there is a threat.

Network scanning is used in conjunction with other automated processes whereby users are perceived as a threat. For instance, suspicious devices can be disconnected from the network and banned based on IP address. Any changes made to the network can be isolated and reversed until the threat is cleared by another automatic process.

3. Firewall logging

Firewall logging is a process that automatically documents all activity related to a network firewall. For example, a typical firewall log will contain information about how the firewall handled different segments of traffic across the network. The logs also track the source and destination IP addresses of all traffic, as well as port numbers and protocols used.

4. Penetration testing

Penetration testing simulates various cyberattacks against your network and/or applications for the purpose of identifying vulnerabilities. When vulnerabilities are found, the network’s IT administrator is notified to remediate any issues.

5. Network scan analysis

Scanning a network is important, but meaningless without analysis. A network scan analysis looks for indications of a security breach that may have gone unnoticed. 

6. Patching software vulnerabilities

When  a vulnerability is detected in third-party software, the software vendor determines if a patch is available. If the vendor is unaware of the vulnerability, it will take time to come up with a patch. However, this process is often automated with patch management software.

7. Verifying and ranking vulnerabilities

Finding hundreds or thousands of vulnerabilities in a scan can be overwhelming. Therefore, ranking the criticality of the vulnerabilities is essential. Prioritization makes it easier to remediate the problems in the proper order.

How a vulnerability ranks is determined by the potential damage it can cause. For instance, if a vulnerability makes it easy for a hacker to gain admin access to part of the network, that is a severe problem that should be handled immediately. This type of vulnerability would be ranked higher than others whose potential to cause damage is significantly lower. 

Data sensitivity is the other factor considered when ranking vulnerabilities. If the data that could be accessed is highly sensitive, then the threat should be ranked higher. If that data is encrypted, the threat would be ranked lower.

8. Managing vendor vulnerabilities

Managing vendor vulnerabilities is perhaps the most challenging part of vulnerability management. When you’re dealing with a third-party vendor whose systems and protocols aren’t secure, you don’t have the control you need to tighten down on security. For instance, if you’re working with a vendor that doesn’t encrypt all data on their end, your data is vulnerable on a network you don’t control and therefore can’t secure. 

A huge part of managing vendor vulnerabilities requires people skills to work with vendors until they get their systems up to speed with basic security measures. The problem is, without  hiring a company to perform an audit on your vendors, you may not be aware that there’s a problem until it’s too late.

The Consequences of Not Having Active Vulnerability Management

You’ve heard about major corporations like Target having to pay out millions in fines for data breaches. Financial ruin is just one consequence of letting security vulnerabilities slip by. Other consequences may include a damaged reputation and even bankruptcy.

Vulnerability management isn’t just for large corporations; it’s for businesses of all sizes. No network is immune to cyberattacks and all networks need to be protected and continuously monitored to keep threats at bay.

How Panorays Can Help

Panorays’ Cyber Posture Rating  gives you an outside-in simulated hacker view of your vendors’ digital perimeter .

We will also test your vendors’ DNS servers, SSL protocols, web applications, social posture and the presence of a security team, among other things, so you know what vulnerabilities exist within your vendors’ digital footprint and whether or not your vendors align with your company’s risk appetite and security posture. We will even detect the presence of third- or fourth-party vendors you may not be aware of.

Whether you need a vulnerability assessment on your own network, your vendors’ network or both, we can help.

Request a demo today to see the Panorays difference and learn more about how your organization can benefit from our end-to-end third party security management platform.