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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 smart manufacturing 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 cybercriminals can exploit, expanding the need for threat intelligence and vulnerability management tools.

Threat Detection and Vulnerability Management

Develop a proactive cybersecurity framework that emphasizes threat detection and vulnerability management.

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. A common example is mistakes in software code that provides an attacker with direct access to a system or network, until the software code is patched.

Exposure is the number of vulnerable systems or networks that attackers can access.

Risk is a measurement of future loss from a given scenerario, such as a ransomware event, derived from probable frequency and probable magnitude of loss events. Avoiding loss is a fundamental reason for maintaining an enterprise vulnerability management program.

One of the many ways that you can help protect your business from unplanned downtime is to develop a vulnerability management program. These task management programs help your IT team with vulnerability identification, patch management, and optimizing your position against cyber-attacks.

Programmer working to prevent computer virus

What is vulnerability management?

The vulnerability management process directs organizations to employ vulnerability scanning procedures that can identify the breadth and depth of coverage for information system components scanned and vulnerabilities checked.

Vulnerability management procedure 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 an intense 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 vital metrics, over time to drive risk reduction.

What is a vulnerability assessment?

A vulnerability assessment identifies known vulnerabilities that affect the devices and software used throughout a network. During the evaluation, the vulnerability assessment team use scanning tools that will check the different systems across the network for known issues. These issues can range from out-of-date operating systems, old versions of software, or misconfigured services. When dealing with security issues caused by old software, vulnerability assessments help businesses develop patch management policies.

Why do you need a vulnerability assessment?

While many businesses monitor machines necessary to business operations, many companies do not consider keeping their systems secure and up-to-date. System uptime is a vital part of their business operations, and that security is only a concern for the IT department. Do you have visibility to know what is happening on your business networks?

When was the last time your IT department updated your machines? Do you keep an accurate inventory of all the devices on your network? If you can’t answer these questions, would you agree that taking this opportunity could save you from the pain of unwanted downtime? Vulnerability assessments help business owners understand what attacks bring the organization’s operations to a grinding halt.

Prioritize your Weaknesses

When reviewing the assessment report, business owners should focus on the security issues that impact the primary operations of the business first. Vulnerability management prioritization helps the security teams of various organizations understand what security issues they should address. Examples of the security issues that companies should prioritize are operating systems with known exploits, easily guessable or default passwords, and services that are insecure.

Security issues like those previously mentioned can allow attackers direct access to vulnerable machines, without the need for employees to click a link or open an email. Security risks that involve the use of out of date programs such as internet browsers should not take priority when evaluating and prioritizing risks.

What happens during a vulnerability assessment?

During our vulnerability assessment process, our team utilizes various vulnerability assessment tools and techniques to discover the security weaknesses that affect your business. For your internal network, Certitude Security® uses a network-based vulnerability scanner to identify potential weaknesses. We also offer external vulnerability assessments, where we provide a complete report of discovered issues and the estimated cost if a breach were to occur.

After completing the review, a tailored report is created and sent to the client.  Other standard vulnerability assessment processes include testing and verifying the security of wireless networks, scanning for open service ports, and helping the leadership team develop a vulnerability and patch management policies and programs.

What is an external vulnerability assessment?

Compared to an internal vulnerability assessment, where the focus of the evaluation is on the devices within a network, external vulnerability assessments focus on resources outside the business’s network. These resources can include externally owned servers, 3rd-party business relationships, and website security risks. In many cases, external vulnerability assessments use information from various sources, including the dark web, to determine the issues the businesses could face. Some external vulnerability assessment tools can provide an estimated cost if the organization experiences a breach. External vulnerability assessments can also help evaluate potential 3rd-party suppliers to determine if they are a risk to your organization.

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 to avoid potential adverse 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 and reporting.

What the difference between patch management and vulnerability management?

After a vulnerability assessment, the produced report can help the business develop patch and vulnerability management plans. Patch management is the process of keeping any software used up-to-date. Outdated programs or operating systems are easy entry points for hackers, as exploits for newer versions of the software are hard to find. Vulnerability management, on the other hand, is the process of identifying and fixing potential security concerns that affect the devices within a network. While vulnerability management may occur once every so often, continuous vulnerability management involves using vulnerability assessment software that will assess the environment over a length of time. Continuous vulnerability management programs are an excellent tool to help inform businesses of new security risks.

What is vulnerability scanning?

The organization employs vulnerability scanning tools that include scan updates of the information system vulnerabilities. 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 systems and hosted applications based upon organization-defined frequency and randomly by organization-defined process and when new vulnerabilities potentially affecting the system and applications being identified and reported.
  2. Employs vulnerability scanning tools and techniques that facilitate interoperability among toolsets 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, following an organizational assessment of risk
  5. Share 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 and systemic weaknesses or deficiencies.

What is 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.

What the difference between vulnerability assessments and penetration testing?

A vulnerability assessment aims to uncover network vulnerabilities and recommend the appropriate mitigation or remediation to reduce or remove the vulnerability exposure. A vulnerability assessment uses automated network security scanning tools to generate a list of potential vulnerabilities that currently affect organizations’ security. The results listed in the vulnerability assessment report, focus 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 regularly to ensure the security of their networks, mainly with changes, e.g., services added, new equipment installed, or when new open ports are required to the Internet.

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 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 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.

Vulnerability Management is an Ongoing Process

Vulnerability management program 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.

Interested to find out if your IT assets and business information are protected from costly ransomware, contact us today.

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