Building Resilience – A Comprehensive Guide to Operationalizing Vulnerabilities

Building resilience requires time and commitment. It also only happens sometimes and will be different for everyone.

While there is no one-size-fits-all way to become more resilient, a few things can help. These include connecting with others, prioritizing wellness, thinking positively, and finding meaning. Also, remembering what has helped you cope in the past can help you work through new, demanding situations.

Recognizing Weaknesses

Finding potential vulnerabilities is the first step in any vulnerability management strategy. It involves clearly understanding your IT environment and its connection to the outside world. This level of visibility is necessary to know which assets could be exposed to vulnerabilities and how to prioritize their patching. With this, you may save time on assets that are not being exploited or are not crucial to your business and may miss the opportunity to patch the vulnerabilities that attackers most likely weaponize.

Vulnerability identification often involves using threat intelligence information and vulnerability databases to create a list of affected components. It also requires a complete IT infrastructure map, including on-premises and cloud assets and remote systems. This mapping is the foundation of a mature vulnerability management program and provides the visibility needed to understand the scope of your vulnerability exposures.

Traditionally, vulnerability and resilience have been studied as separate entities. In this study, however, one another influenced and impacted them. Those with lower vulnerability and higher resilience were more adaptive than those with higher vulnerability but less resilience. These findings demonstrate the importance of integrating vulnerability, resilience, and adaptation assessments and research into governance propositions.

A key implication of this study is that asset features significantly influence vulnerability, resilience, and adaptation. Specifically, asset features help determine how people make sense of the threats and stressors they face, how they perceive the available assets, and whether they feel motivated to overcome these challenges (e.g., Sense of Coherence).

For example, some individuals might use a standard vulnerability scoring system (CVSS) to rank and prioritize their vulnerability remediation tasks, such as ensuring that all assets are patched. It might be a mistake because the CVSS should consider the potential impact on your business if certain assets are hacked and whether or not the attackers are still evolving. Threats can be reduced by implementing operationalized vulnerability assessment activities into place.

The first step in vulnerability management is conducting a thorough vulnerability assessment. During this process, you identify and rank all vulnerabilities in your organization’s systems and hardware. You then create a list of actions to remediate the flaws and prevent them from being exploited by hackers. Using a risk-based approach, you prioritize vulnerabilities based on their impact on the business. For example, a low-rated vulnerability on a web server might not be critical to your business operations. However, it could be an easy target for hackers who can access customer data and credit card information.

A vulnerability assessment will often reveal multiple vulnerabilities in your system that require remediation. This may require updating software, installing new security tools, or enhancing existing ones. It would help if you also determined your company’s risk tolerance level to understand how many vulnerabilities you can accept and remain viable and secure.

Vulnerability assessments should be performed regularly because a single scan is only a snapshot of your systems. A regular schedule will allow you to compare results over time and track the progress of your vulnerability management program. It will also help you to identify trends and develop a more accurate understanding of your current security posture.

Structural equation modeling (SEM) provides a framework for estimating interventions’ impact on latent constructs (vulnerability, exposure, and adaptive capacity). This model measures the relationships between these variables as correlative strengths. The strength of these relationships varies depending on which latent construct is targeted by an intervention and the timeframe needed to observe a change in the structural relationship between that variable and the other two.

For instance, a drought relief intervention that provides food rations to households targets the latent construct vulnerability. Still, it does not address their resilience towards future situations similar to those in which they were initially vulnerable. Consequently, the model suggests a more comprehensive vulnerability assessment should include additional mediating variables (e.g., livelihood variation and agency) and direct pathways between the measurable vulnerability indicators.

Developing a Vulnerability Management Plan

A comprehensive vulnerability management program encompasses a range of technologies and people working together toward common goals. It should be supported from the top down and aligned with strategic business objectives. A robust program also demonstrates agility and cyber-resilience.

Vulnerability assessment is an ongoing process that is a vital part of your organization’s overall security posture. It includes the identification of vulnerabilities, their evaluation, and remediation, as well as reporting on the progress of your vulnerability management program.

A vulnerability management program should be comprehensive and include visibility into your attack surface to be effective. It requires more than just scanning devices on your network; it also requires assessing the risk of each asset, taking into account its criticality and business context. It also means evaluating the likelihood of exploitability based on attacker behavior and research and integrating threat intelligence to prioritize patching efforts.

You should also develop a recovery plan to take action if a vulnerability is exploited and learn lessons from each incident. It should include determining what systems have been compromised and what data was exposed, who is responsible for each affected system, and how each vulnerability was discovered. It should be followed by an analysis of the impact on your organization, including the business costs associated with a cybersecurity incident and any regulatory or contractual obligations you may face.

Finally, your vulnerability management program should be scalable to meet your organization’s needs and growing threat landscape. You should continuously scan your entire attack surface, incorporating new assets as they join your network and using solutions that integrate with your CMDB to provide a real-time view of your environment.

Despite the best efforts, there will always be some vulnerabilities that need to be addressed. That is why it is essential to have a strong and flexible governance framework to handle these situations. It should involve a group of people who can assess the effects of an assault fast, react suitably, and implement the required adjustments to keep you compliant and lower your risk.

Developing a Vulnerability Response Plan

Managing vulnerabilities is an essential step in building resilient systems. Vulnerabilities are coding flaws attackers can exploit to break into networks, applications, and services. The vulnerability management process involves scanning, identifying, and assessing these weaknesses in your digital infrastructure. Finding vulnerabilities and ranking them according to possible impact is the aim. Once identified, they can be fixed to decrease cyber risk and protect assets.

Once you have completed the identification and assessment stages, it is time to develop a vulnerability response plan. The key is establishing clear criteria for prioritizing and triaging each identified weakness. It will help your team focus on critical issues, such as preventing business disruptions and protecting customers’ sensitive information.

You should also include a timeline for each vulnerability treatment and mitigation. It will guarantee that all vulnerabilities are fixed immediately and that your group is ready to act quickly if a vulnerability is found. In addition to creating a recovery timeline, you should establish clear communication channels with stakeholders and the media in case of a breach.

For organizations struggling to find the resources needed for an effective vulnerability management program, leveraging an outsourced managed service provider can be an effective solution. A well-established service provider can provide the specialized tools and processes to manage vulnerabilities effectively.

While a quarterly vulnerability scan and patch cycle may seem sufficient, it is essential to remember that hackers constantly seek ways to exploit your assets. In fact, according to NIST’s NVD, 12,000 new vulnerabilities could be used in just the first week of January 2020. It is also important to remember that while vulnerability scores can be helpful, attackers tend to chain several mild vulnerabilities to create an exploit.

A vulnerability management strategy should align with your security and risk management programs. It includes incorporating the principles of COBIT in your organization and implementing a risk framework that integrates with your technical IT strategies. A systemic approach to vulnerability management is best, considering the interconnected nature of human and natural components in a given system.

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