Importance of Vulnerability Management

The number of attacks like the recent one against Equifax have risen dramatically in the last few years, resulting in the exposure of hundreds of millions of private records. Almost without exception there has been some fundamental flaw related to configuration or patching of systems.

This trend will continue without systems designed to automatically identify, patch, and close vulnerabilities in core IT systems that can reduce the chance of human error. We can accomplish this with automation typically found in large operational cloud deployments and the Constant Delivery (CD)/Constant Integration (CI) principles of DevOps.

These principles are already being used to automatically stop active attacks within the information security community and should now extend to IT operations to improve protections and stop the bad guys from getting in at all.

Once you implement the technical scanning solution and ticketing support, the process becomes much more simplified. The primary drive to decide what to scan first should be based on risk. One of the biggest problems with vulnerability management programs is the application owner’s fear that scanning will negatively affect their applications. The information security team can throttle scans, target certain times of the day for lower application traffic, and scan applications prior to implementation in production to catch vulnerabilities sooner and reduce application loads.

Today, most enterprises still rely on people in IT to manually patch operational IT systems, especially e-commerce and other customer-facing systems. Changing the makeup of the IT Ops department may create upheaval among workers who are worried about their jobs, but this isn’t insurmountable if retraining is offered and embraced.

Engineering integration skills to interconnect products like vulnerability scanners and infrastructure management systems are needed for success. The automation created should also provide metrics on the state of the systems under management to ensure that a secure state is truly being achieved.

Finally, new automation technologies will be required to complete a full cycle of vulnerability detection that automatically corrects and verifies that the fixes have been made. Orchestration tools like Puppet and Chef should be integrated with the APIs built into vulnerability scanners and infrastructure management and patching systems to make this vision a reality. It will be challenging for enterprises to accept this level of automation and “trust the machine,” but it’s a far better option than today’s automated intrusion prevention technologies, which can result in false positives that block legitimate traffic and possibly interfere with revenue-generating business systems.

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