What’s so good about vulnerability management?

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Many corporations in the world are now mandated by PCI to perform at least quarterly scans against their PCI in-scope computing systems. The main goal of this activity is to ensure vulnerabilities in systems are identified and fixed on a regular basis. I myself think this is one of the more important provisions of PCI and one that I believe is tantamount to maintaining a secure environment.

What most corporations initially do is start by using simple scanning tools such as nessus, Gfi languard, ISS scanner etc and perform on-demand scans. While this is all well and good and provides an immediate snapshot of a particular point in time. There are several major flaws that must be addressed through richer tools.

First, it is great to get vulnerability and patch data, however providing a systems engineer or administrator with only one single report with many if not hundreds of things to fix this method becomes quickly unreasonable for them to track and respond to. We often forget that this systems engineer is often tasked with many other duties they must prioritize including new installs, troubleshooting, bug patching, administration, configuration etc that demands most of their time. These activities are often far more time sensitive in their eyes as projects etc have people bugging them regularly for completion. It is also important to note that the business is pushing them for ever greater functionality/features.

Given this fact, a simple scan report is just not viable for them to prioritize and track against existing workload. this has givrn rise to vulnerability management a.k.a. the process of managing vulnerabilities to remediation through the use of ticketing/reporting to management.

Secondly, another important flaw that exists with just simple scanning is the lack of overall metrics with regard to measuring risk. Measuring risk is hard is hard to do in security, but if you have an automated scanning process that is scheduled on a regularly occuring basis (i.e. more than once every 3 months) your vulnerability data over that time can be measured as systems become either more exposed or less exposed as they are patched or new vulnerabilities are found. This is one way you can effectively measure the effectiveness of your patch management and your security program.

Thirdly, this ensures your company clearly see’s that security is a process and not just a one time effort. This distinction is important because you as a security practitioner will need data to prove you need a consistent and ongoing supply of money to maintain security. Security is continuous and ever changing, stagnation is a guarentee of breach.

Moral of this story… manage security, don’t just triage it and forget it.

Great tools for managing vulnerabilities are:
-McAfee Vulnerability Manager