Security threats drive CIOs to prioritise vulnerability management in the remote-work era

Cybersecurity concerns have expanded at an alarming rate in the remote-work model that is increasingly prevalent in organisations worldwide. As per ManageEngine’s 2021 Digital Readiness Survey, an overwhelming 97% of firms reported that security threats have increased over the course of the pandemic, with malware topping the list. While companies are taking steps to understand and confront security issues, the question is whether their actions are enough.

Vulnerabilities or potential security gaps in any application used in business pose severe risks if unaddressed. When an external threat actor exploits the vulnerability, it results in cyberattacks. Understanding, monitoring, and managing these vulnerabilities is the most effective way to address security attacks.

The dire costs of not deploying vulnerability management

Organisations often pay dearly for security lapses that might be overlooked while implementing a security strategy. The financial sector is a favourite of hackers. A devastating data breach of a leading digital payment processing company shook the Indian financial sector earlier this year as news emerged that payment-related information belonging to at least two crore users was compromised.

According to an IDC report, “67% of the organisations prioritised cybersecurity to build digital trust for customers, employees, and partners. Building digital trust across the ecosystem has become a defining indicator of a successful digital transformation journey.” 

A vulnerability management system helps detect not only vulnerabilities in OSs and applications but also uncovers misconfigurations in password policies, firewall rules, antivirus settings, administrative privileges, and more.

Vulnerability management enhances legacy IT ops processes

Vulnerability management is an upgrade from the conventional IT management processes and provides an array of functionalities to fortify your IT infrastructure:

  • Inventory scanning: Taking inventory of the various software assets and creating custom groups based on OS and application.
  • Vulnerability assessment: Discovering all possible known vulnerabilities that can lead to attacks.
  • Vulnerability mitigation: Providing advice on how to thwart vulnerabilities.
  • Risk and threat prioritisation: Defining risks based on the severity and accordingly taking action.

How to choose the right vulnerability management system

A vulnerability management system should be able to discover existing security and software vulnerabilities; misconfigurations, including ones in web servers; high-risk software; and other threats to your network. Features to evaluate in a vulnerability management program include:

  • Security configuration management: Detecting and realigning configuration drifts across all endpoints is imperative for your network’s security. Actions to take include enabling antivirus measures, updating antivirus definitions, establishing firewalls, ensuring authorised administrative share access, regulating folder share permissions, implementing a secure password policy, and checking user privileges.
  • Web server hardening: Security hardening of web-facing servers is essential. The program must be capable of ensuring that attacks directed at web servers are prevented from impacting web communications. This helps prevent denial-of-service and brute-force attacks.
  • High-risk software audits: Software deemed dangerous to businesses, like peer-to-peer file sharing software, those nearing end-of-life status, and remote desktop sharing software, should be detected. Defined permissions for blocking or allowing these applications’ use helps prevent the creation of new vulnerabilities that can invite attacks.
  • Port audits: Applications require specific firewall ports to be open. There might be cases when open yet inactive ports lead to exploitation by injected trojans or other malware. Your vulnerability management program must be capable of determining which firewall ports, especially on internet-facing servers, are prone to attacks and closing them as needed.

Zero-day vulnerability mitigation: Zero-day vulnerabilities do not come with patches; they are barely exploited in the wild, and vendors strive hard to release timely patches before a proof of concept is implemented. In such cases, a vulnerability management program must help execute custom scripts that tweak registry key settings or disable legacy protocols.

The article has been written by Joyal Bennison, Product Consultant, ManageEngine

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