Big Reputation: How Vulnerability Management Could Save Your Rep

by Hannah Grace Holladay / November 13th, 2023

Can I ask you a Question…? Does your organization have a vulnerability management program in place? Do you trust that it’s strong enough to protect what is most important to you? Have you ever thought about what Taylor Swift could teach you about security best practices?

Musical superstar Taylor Swift is appearing in all corners of the internet recently. Whether you or someone you know managed to snag tickets to her much-anticipated Eras Tour or you’re a Chiefs fan, you’ve probably seen Taylor pop up recently. And, what can we say, we couldn’t resist either.  

Besides her 12 Grammy Awards and more number 1 albums than any other woman in history, Taylor can also teach us some valuable lessons about security, compliance, and vulnerability management.  She knows a thing or two about protecting a reputation.  So, here’s what we think some of T-Swift’s songs can teach us about vulnerability management.

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Attackers are looking for any chance to exploit the blank space in your infrastructure.  And we know all too well that in today’s treacherous threat landscape, we cannot be innocent.  We have to be ready for it or else we put our reputations and valuable data at risk.

We know that these threats are overwhelming and maintaining your rep is vital.  These attacks can feel like death by a thousand cuts, but luckily there are some practical steps we can take to ensure you aren’t having to tell your boss, “I did something bad.” 

Long story short, vulnerability management is critical to your organization’s security program. It means implementing automated vulnerability scanning and patch remediation processes. It also means regularly verifying that the automations are configuring and running properly. This is critical to protecting your company and customer data from attackers and therefore reputational damages.

I Wish You Would Create a Proper Vulnerability Management Program

Attackers are continuously scanning corporate networks from the outside, looking for vulnerabilities to exploit. One of their many goals is compromising networks to exfiltrate data or install ransomware, both of which can be profitable for them but create some bad blood for you.

They generally look for easy targets, or companies with insecure practices. Don’t let your company be an easy target.

According to CIS Control 7, proper vulnerability management programs must:

Develop a plan to continuously assess and track vulnerabilities on all enterprise assets within the enterprise’s infrastructure, in order to remediate, and minimize, the window of opportunity for attackers. Monitor public and private industry sources for new threat and vulnerability information.

Information security teams must continually scan their networks for vulnerabilities to remediate them before attackers find them. Attackers have the same access to vulnerability information that infosec pros do. They also have sophisticated tools to quickly exploit those vulnerabilities.

We can’t wait to remediate vulnerabilities until there’s a convenient time. We must prioritize vulnerability management as the consequences of neglecting it are catastrophic and can lead to some pretty illicit affairs.

Companies that are victims of attackers have paid millions of dollars to ransomware gangs to retrieve their data and have later paid even more millions of dollars to clean up their networks and pay claims in lawsuits from customers and shareholders.

A Vulnerability Management Program is Better Than Revenge

The good news is you’re *not* on your own, kidThis is me trying to help you develop the defense you need to have some peace. You may not be fearless when facing these threats, but hopefully with a well-designed vulnerability management program, there at least won’t be any teardrops on your guitar.

Call it what you want, but there are certain processes you should incorporate into your vulnerability management plan.  Let’s take a look at some of the best practices to include in your program:

Quarterly vulnerability scans

Vulnerability scans are a main component of vulnerability management, allowing you to evaluate your systems, software, and infrastructure for unpatched holes and gaps in need of remediation.  The frequency of vulnerability scanning depends on a few factors: organizational changes, compliance standards, and security program goals. Vulnerability scans should be conducted after any major system, organization, or infrastructure change to ensure you’re aware of any security gaps. And, of course, to comply with various regulations, annual, quarterly, or monthly vulnerability scanning may be required as part of your information security program.

Overall, an industry best practice is to perform vulnerability scanning at least once per quarter. Quarterly vulnerability scans tend to catch any major security holes that need to be assessed, but depending on your unique organizational needs, you may end up performing scans monthly or even weekly. The best way to assess vulnerability scanning frequency is to thoroughly understand your own security structure and the threats you face.

Patch management

According to NIST, “Patch management is the process for identifying, acquiring, installing, and verifying patches for products and systems.” It involves updating pieces of code that would likely be compromised by malicious individuals and updating security features to software.

It’s likely that patches will need to be made on a regular basis. For this reason, using automated patch management processes is the most effective way to ensure that patches are addressed on a timely, regular basis. By using an automated patch management system, your organization will also save time and financial resources. However, there are instances when manual patch management processes are also useful. For example, in the event that certain software and technologies are not supported by automated patch management, manual patch management techniques should be used.

Remediation plans

Unfortunately, no matter how many controls we put in place, attacks are inevitable.   Some of the most important controls and plans to have in place are remediation plans.   Establishing strategies for risk management and disaster recovery are essential to the survival of your business processes and your reputation. 

Your risk management strategy should prepare your organization through the identification and protection of your valuable assets.  When you know what you have to protect, you can decide how best to protect it.  Without a risk assessment, you can’t implement the proactive processes that can mitigate the impact of an event.

When an event occurs, you’ll need a disaster recovery and business continuity plan to guide your organization through the remediation process.  By creating robust recovery plans, your organization should be able to limit reputational damage, prevent extensive loss, and help your organization maintain or restore business processes as quickly as possible.  

Deploy anti-virus software

Anti-virus software can identify and prevent viruses before they infect or damage your systems.  The software will scan your files and computer systems to identify any new or wrong patterns that could indicate the presence of a virus.  It’s important to keep your anti-virus software up to date so it is capable of identifying all of the latest types of malware.

Unauthorized wireless access point detection

The exploitation of wireless technology within a network is one of the most common paths for malicious users to gain access to your network. Rogue access points can be added to your network through unauthorized Wi-Fi access points.  These connections are made without the permission of the network administrator.  Wireless access point detection tools can be used to monitor and detect when these connections are made on your network so you can properly deal with them and keep your network secure.

Intrusion-Detection and/or Intrusion-Prevention techniques

Establishing a strong intrusion detection and prevention system (IDPS) – although they are sometimes separately referred to as intrusion detection systems (IDS) and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) – is a core component to any cybersecurity strategy.

An Intrusion Detection and Prevention System (IDPS) monitors network traffic for indications of an attack, alerting administrators to possible attacks. IDPS solutions monitor traffic for patterns that match with known attacks.

IDPS solutions are usually deployed behind an organization’s firewall to identify threats that pass through the network’s first line of defense. Typically, an intrusion detection and prevention system accomplishes this by using a device or software to gather, log, detect, and prevent suspicious activity.

Change-detection mechanisms

Change management systems provide organizations with policies and procedures for making updates to their IT infrastructure, which in turn helps mitigate the potential for overlooking any new vulnerabilities or risks created while changes are taking place.  If change-detection mechanisms are not implemented properly, a malicious individual could take advantage and could add, remove, or alter configuration file contents, operating system programs, or application executables.

Think of it this way: a firewall’s purpose is to act as a barrier to prevent malicious users from gaining unauthorized access to an organization’s network. If a developer makes and deploys a change to the firewall configurations without gaining approval, critical vulnerabilities could be missed or introduced into the system.

Be The Man and Make Your Org Untouchable

Long live all the data you’ve made. 

Don’t wait until an attack makes you question what you would’ve, could’ve, should’ve done.  Every program can have a glitch, but you can be the mastermind of your organization’s security defenses.  By implementing a program that can help you identify your weaknesses, you’ll be able to shake it off and stay out of the woods.

If you need some help creating a vulnerability management program you’re confident in, please speak now. Working with you to implement or strengthen this type of program would make our wildest dreams come true. 

Jump then fall into our arms by connecting with an expert today.