Is Prioritization Important in Risk-Based Vulnerability Management?

Vulnerability may be an endearing trait among people, but it should be anathema to any smart organization. Look no further than the endless parade of successful data breaches and their devastating real-world consequences for proof of that.
With state-sponsored hackers wreaking havoc, the average data breach costing more than $4 million and billions of records being exposed every year, the situation has reached crisis proportions.

Yet while we understand the stakes, many organizations still haven’t been galvanized into action. Instead, they rely on what has worked in the past and hope for the best. That attitude may be dangerous, but it is understandable to some degree.

Organizational inertia is strong and the task of managing cybersecurity vulnerabilities is enormous in both scope and importance. As anyone who has ever worked in the field would attest, it can be a triage-type situation. There are so many vulnerabilities to deal with that it is easy to be overwhelmed.

Fortunately, there is a tool we can wield to make the job far less onerous: Prioritization.

The Need for Risk-Based Vulnerability Management

The old method of “scan, patch and hope for the best” is a serious recipe for trouble these days. To work effectively, security teams must go beyond limited severity scores and focus on the key context that allows for an accurate evaluation of risk.

risk-based approach to vulnerability management offers a much fuller picture, allowing us to see not only where vulnerabilities exist but the damage they could do should they be exploited. It’s this critical context that makes it possible to marshal limited resources and point them in the direction where they will do the most good. In other words, we need smart prioritization in a risk-based vulnerability management program.

Prioritization in vulnerability management begins with visibility into all networks, applications, systems, and environments and continuous monitoring across all attack vectors. Once vulnerabilities are identified, the appropriate context allows us to gauge the value of the exposed assets and their relationships to other assets. We can then quickly grasp the true picture of risk — we know what is vulnerable, how vulnerable it is and what could happen in the event of a successful exploit.

Vulnerability management prioritization, therefore, is the essential process we must have to focus on the relatively small number of exposures that present the greatest risk. Prioritization allows us to find the needle in the haystack, and to avoid wasting precious hours and days addressing vulnerabilities that pose little threat should they be exploited.

The key to making this work is continuous scanning, testing and quick remediation. For that, however, you need the right set of software tools.

XM Cyber and Continuous Vulnerability Identification

Unlike CVSS-based scanners that deal with the “what” and “where” aspects of identifying vulnerabilities, XM Cyber’s attack-centric exposure prioritization platform also shows you the “who” and “how.”

XM Cyber technology mimics the tactics of advanced persistent threats (APT) and other adversaries by launching simulated cyberattacks on organizational defenses and probing for security gaps. It shows you where vulnerabilities exist and how specific threat actors are likely to exploit them. Then, it offers prioritized remediation guidance based on the criticality of the exposure.

This process allows organizations to more efficiently deal with vulnerabilities by focusing on the one percent of exposures that are likely to be exploited and do real damage. Because XM Cyber works on an automated, continuous basis, defenders do not have to worry about the fast-developing vulnerabilities that are undetectable by manual, point-in-time testing.

Harnessing the power of prioritization based on criticality and threat context makes the labor-intensive process of patching more efficient. It helps organizations marshal limited resources in the right direction. Ultimately, it profoundly lowers the risk of crown jewel assets being exposed, because it allows cybersecurity teams to display a laser-like focus on eliminating the small fraction of vulnerabilities that have the potential to cause massive problems.

The Takeaway

Prioritization is the single most effective tool vulnerability management teams can wield in their constant and often overwhelming battle to secure organizational assets.

XM Cyber’s cyberattack path management platform is the most powerful solution on the market for accomplishing this task, as it eliminates 99% of the risk to business-critical systems by targeting the one percent of exposures that are exploitable.

Click here to learn more about how our technology can protect your most valuable assets.

Yohanan Berros is Customer Operations Manager at XM Cyber


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