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As technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, manufacturing companies have had to adopt a more aggressive approach to system and network security. Relying on firewalls and basic antivirus software is no longer an option, as cybercriminals have developed new methods for exploiting unsecured production equipment and connectivity tools. Large-scale data breaches are commonplace in almost every industry, and many IT security teams have struggled to keep pace with the evolving threat landscape. This trend has forced business leaders to go on the offensive, but mitigating cyber threats can require significant investment in security infrastructure and remediation tools.

The only way to fully protect on-premise systems and applications is to develop a proactive cybersecurity framework that emphasizes threat detection and vulnerability management. Unlike reactive security models, this approach provides a clear picture of your company’s attack surface, allowing your internal or external IT team to locate weak points in your digital defenses before an incident occurs. That said, manufacturers must remain vigilant even after their vulnerability assessment and remediation program is deployed, as new threats are constantly cropping up.

Programmer working to prevent computer virus

What is a vulnerability assessment? What is vulnerability management?

What is a vulnerability?

In cybersecurity, a vulnerability is a weakness which can be exploited by a threat actor, such as an attacker, to perform unauthorized actions within a computer system or network.

What is vulnerability scanning?

The organization employs vulnerability scanning tools that include the capability to readily update the information system vulnerabilities to be scanned. Vulnerability scanning can include scanning for patch levels, scanning for functions, ports, protocols, and services that should not be accessible to users or devices, and scanning for improperly configured or incorrectly operating information flow control mechanisms.

NIST 800-53 RA-5 Vulnerability Scanning: Security and Privacy Controls for Federal Information Systems and Organizations; Control Description for the Organization:

  1. Scans for vulnerabilities in the information system and hosted applications based upon organization-defined frequency and/or randomly in accordance with organization-defined process and when new vulnerabilities potentially affecting the system/applications are identified and reported.
  2. Employs vulnerability scanning tools and techniques that facilitate interoperability among tools and automate parts of the vulnerability management process by using standards for:
    • Enumerating platforms, software flaws, and improper configurations
    • Formatting checklists and test procedures
    • Measuring vulnerability impact
  3. Analyzes vulnerability scan reports and results from security control assessments
  4. Remediates legitimate vulnerabilities within organization-defined response times, in accordance with an organizational assessment of risk
  5. Shares information obtained from the vulnerability scanning process and security control assessments with organization-defined personnel or roles to help eliminate similar vulnerabilities in other information systems, as well as systemic weaknesses or deficiencies.

What is a vulnerability assessment?

A vulnerability assessment is the process of defining, identifying, classifying, and prioritizing vulnerabilities found in computer systems, applications and network infrastructures and providing the organization doing the assessment with the necessary knowledge, awareness and risk background to understand the threats to its environment and react appropriately.

Why do we need a vulnerability assessment?

The vulnerability assessment process helps to reduce the chances an attacker is able to breach an organization’s IT systems and yield a better understanding of the organization’s assets, their vulnerabilities, and the overall risk to an organization. Different types of vulnerability assessments can include network-based scans, host-based scans, wireless network scans, application scans, database scans.

Vulnerability assessments also provide an organization with information on the security weaknesses in its environment, and provides direction on how to assess the risks associated with those weaknesses and evolving threats. This process offers the organization a better understanding of its assets, security flaws and overall risk, reducing the likelihood that a cybercriminal will breach its systems and cause financial loss to the business.

What is vulnerability management?

Vulnerability management is the practice of identifying, classifying, remediating, and mitigating vulnerabilities. Remediation is an effort that resolves or mitigates a discovered vulnerability.

Patch management occurs regularly as per the Patch Management Procedure. Effective risk-based vulnerability management requires a strong process mapped directly to these five cyber exposure phases:

  1. Discover: Identify and map assets across the computing environment.
  2. Assess: Understand the cyber exposure of all assets, including vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and other security indicators.
  3. Prioritize: Understand exposures in context to prioritize remediation based upon asset criticality, threat context, and vulnerability severity.
  4. Remediate: Determine which exposures to fix first and apply the appropriate remediation or mitigation techniques.
  5. Measure: Report cyber exposure and other key metrics overtime to drive risk reduction.

What is a vulnerability management policy?

This policy aims to establish controls and processes for the identification and management of technical vulnerabilities and their associated risks to your organization’s information assets in order to avoid potential negative business impact.

Why have a vulnerability management policy?

Organizations must assess IT systems and software to determine potential security impacts due to flaws, weaknesses, or intentional malice to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of business systems and data. The policy specifies the resources allocated to vulnerability assessment processes and may include details such as scanning frequency, scanning validation, post remediation scanning, responsibilities, reporting, etc.

What is a vulnerability management process?

Organizations employs vulnerability scanning procedures that can identify the breadth and depth of coverage for information system components scanned and vulnerabilities checked.

Describe continuous vulnerability assessment scanning.

Security categorization of information systems guides the frequency and comprehensiveness of vulnerability scans. The organization employs automated mechanisms to compare the results of vulnerability scans over time to determine trends in information system vulnerabilities. We help you manage and report on your exposure with less time and effort to assess, prioritize, and remediate issues.

Vulnerability assessments vs. penetration testing

A vulnerability assessment aims to uncover vulnerabilities in a network and recommend the appropriate mitigation or remediation to reduce or remove the risks. A vulnerability assessment uses automated network security scanning tools to generate a list of potential vulnerabilities that currently effect an organizations security. The results are listed in the vulnerability assessment report, which focuses on providing enterprises with a list of vulnerabilities that need to be fixed, without evaluating specific attack goals or scenarios. Organizations should employ vulnerability testing on a regular basis to ensure the security of their networks, particularly when changes are made, e.g., services are added, new equipment is installed or ports are opened.

In contrast, penetration testing involves identifying vulnerabilities in a network, and attempting to exploit them to attack the system. Although sometimes carried out in concert with vulnerability assessments, the primary aim of penetration testing is to check whether a vulnerability really exists and to prove that exploiting it can damage the application or network.

Our assessment process leverages both vulnerability assessment using an automated vulnerability scanner to cover a wide variety of unpatched vulnerabilities, as well as penetration testing with the use of automated and manual techniques to help testers focus on exploiting vulnerabilities to gain access to a targeted network, host, and application in a controlled environment.

As the manufacturing industry continues to embrace the transformative power of automation, robotics and cloud computing, many companies have experienced a sharp rise in damaging security incidents. While these cutting-edge technologies offer a wide range of operational benefits, the lack of broad standardization has created significant challenges for small and medium-sized production environments. Every new hardware and software deployment represents a possible attack vector that cyber criminals can exploit, expanding the need for threat intelligence and vulnerability management tools.

Vulnerability Management is an ongoing process

Vulnerability management is a continuous cycle that incorporates a series of high-level processes, including threat discovery, reporting, prioritization and response. While each phase is characterized by different security-related tasks, they work in tandem to reduce your cyber risk. 

Even the most robust cybersecurity protocols require constant refinement, which is why our security team developed a comprehensive process for combating existing and emergent threats. Our focus on deep system and network analysis can help you identify areas of improvement that you may have overlooked, ensuring your IT assets and business information are protected from a variety of common risks, such as:

  • Malware, ransomware and viruses.
  • Zero-day threats and exploits.
  • Man-in-the-middle attacks.
  • Data and credential theft.
  • Botnet and DDoS raids.
  • Phishing attempts.

To get an idea for how our team of cybersecurity professionals approach vulnerability management, let’s take a closer look at each stage individually:

Step 1: Discovery

Our security specialists locate, categorize and assess every computing asset on your network, from IoT sensors to employee workstations. Once identified, we create a detailed profile for each asset that includes relevant information on vulnerabilities, configuration and patch state. This information is used to build a comprehensive knowledge base, which is regularly refreshed when new devices are added to your production line.

Step 2: Reporting

After the raw data has been compiled, our security experts sift through the knowledge base to create comprehensive reports on potential threats found during the discovery phase. The reporting process is often automated through vulnerability scanning, as not every piece of data will provide the sort of actionable insight that our clients are looking for. These reports can provide increased visibility into your network security and overall attack surface.

Step 3: Prioritization

Following the reporting stage, Certitude Security™ helps you rank the known security vulnerabilities to locate the risks with the largest business impact. This allows your team to address the most critical issues immediately and allocate your IT resources with greater efficiency, reducing operational expenses and costly downtime. This vulnerability management phase is one of the most crucial, as it allows you to create a data-driven action plan for remediating and mitigating specific cyber threats.

Step 4: Response

The last phase of the vulnerability management process is to use your plan to act on the generated threat intelligence. Manufacturers often have a range of options for addressing the identified flaws, though some issues may require significant production downtime. While a missing patch may be simple to correct, other remediation efforts are not as straightforward. Certitude Security will work with you to minimize disruption while your system, network and device security risks are being resolved.

If you’d like to find out more about our vulnerability management solutions, contact us today.

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