The need for a mature cybersecurity process in today’s corporate environment is becoming ever more critical. As hackers are becoming more and more sophisticated, so our management and defense systems should also be strengthened accordingly. While there are many components that make up a solid security program within an organization, today, we will shed a light on one essential of these components, which is a vulnerability management maturity model. Rather than simply relying on passive defense, or post-infection processes, it is taking on a more active role. The goal is to help avoid or reduce the occurrences of these security incidents in the first place. In short, this model provides the backbone for how an organization should be assessing and handling vulnerabilities. This model consists of 5 stages that will be described in the upcoming sections.
STAGE 1: Scanning
This is the first step that a corporation thinking about cybersecurity will have. This stage deals with assessments usually handled by an external penetration testing firm. In other words, organizations prefer using outsourcing services from third party vendors who provide their findings and what happens thereafter, is left up to the organization to decide how they will react. A company implementing only stage 1 does so mainly for compliance reasons. While it is a necessary first step, it typically means that the organization does not yet have a defined cyber security program.
STAGE 2: Managed Assessment and Compliance
Here we are dealing with the beginning stages of an in-house security program. What this means is that there is an on-site security engineer who performs routine scans assessments, testing tools and processes to decide what works best. Typically, this can be accomplished in a more low-cost fashion, using solutions for vulnerability scanning and patching. In short, it is keeping a constant watch over the newly discovered vulnerabilities in the organizations’ infrastructure and makes steps to patch. This may be a stage that serves as a proof of value for further building up an organization’s security infrastructure.
STAGE 3: Formalized Analysis and Prioritization
At this stage, the need for internal security scanning is fully understood within the organization and more resources are dedicated to the cause. In addition, vulnerabilities are prioritized in order to allocate limited bandwidth and resources.
STAGE 4: Attack Focused Management
In this stage, metrics and processes are coupled together to understand security trends and to enhance processes and execution. IT departments and security teams build continuous processes that manage a lifecycle of the vulnerability and analytics and risk management tools and processes that are used to measure risks to company’s critical assets.
Higher skilled employees are added and the organization may begin taking a more active role in assessing the organization’s true security posture. The internal Red Team begins to emerge. Now, rather than simply taking the more passive role by performing scans and patches, the team will be tasked to discover new and unknown weaknesses. The internal security team now begins acting as the hacker (penetration tester), not simply relying on what data the scanners and threat intelligence provides.
STAGE 5: Optimization
At this stage, the vulnerability management within the organization is extremely mature and now only needs optimization. The metrics defined in the previous stage (Attack Focused Management) are target for improvement. The security teams optimize each of the metrics and doing so will ensure that the vulnerability management program continuously mitigates threats to the organization.
A proper vulnerability management model implemented within your organization will greatly reduce the costs associated with breaches and incident response. Having your security team think as a hacker will inevitably relieve the vast majority of costs and issues which will be spent on response rather than pre-emptive remediation. This model is arguably one of the first things that an organization with a serious security posture should implement to ensure that the company’s attack surface is reduced.
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