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Vulnerability Assessment (VA) for Vulnerable Times

March 10,2022 by Sid

The cybersecurity landscape in the business world has dynamically evolved over the years with 2021 being no exception. Cybersecurity issues and the prevention of cybercrime have become increasingly important for organizations to tackle on top of adjusting to new work-from-home arrangements due to the pandemic.

At such vulnerable times, a vulnerability assessment (VA) is no longer just a ‘good-to-have’ resource – instead, it should be high on any organizations priority list to fortify their IT infrastructure and most valuable assets in a world that has changed forever.

What is Vulnerability Assessment?

Vulnerability Assessment is the comprehensive process of identifying, quantifying, analysing and prioritizing security vulnerabilities or weaknesses in an organization’s IT systems and infrastructure. Through this process, it identifies and evaluates any vulnerabilities in the IT system, determines severity levels and suggests remedies to mitigate the identified vulnerabilities.

Let’s explore how this happens with the 5 steps of Vulnerability Assessment (VA).

Vulnerability Assessment 5 Steps Process:

  1. Vulnerability Identification: In this step – network scans, firewall logs and vulnerability scan results are analysed to make a list of areas of concern that could become potential entry points for the launch of cyberattacks. Vulnerability testing can be run through either authenticated scans or unauthenticated scans with the former giving vulnerability scanners more effective coverage in scanning vulnerabilities in areas such as configuration details and issues, installed software, patch management, security controls and more.
  1. Vulnerability Analysis: Next, the severity of the identified vulnerabilities is determined to understand the level of security risk and possibility of an exploit. The root cause of the weaknesses is analysed through a security assessment process that lays the foundation for further risk management and mitigation decisions.
  1. Risk Assessment: Then, the vulnerabilities are assessed and prioritized on which will be remediated first based on the severity of security risk. The objective is to assign rankings to each vulnerability based on important characteristics and factors such as what system is affected, what organizational functions depends on the system, cost of data breach according to your industry, what data is stored, the ease of cyberattack or compromise etc.
  1. Remediation: According to the risk assessment, impacted software/hardware are updated wherever possible – this could be installing security patches, updating procedures or sometimes replacing hardware. This step is typically a collaborative effort between departments (security, operations, compliance, risk etc) that work together to ascertain the most cost-effective remediation paths for the vulnerabilities.
  1. Mitigation: Lastly, mitigation focuses on reducing the likelihood that a vulnerability can be exploited or reducing the impact of the exploit through countermeasures such as introducing new security controls, replacing hardware/software, encryption and more.

The Real Benefits of Performing Vulnerability Assessment: What’s in It for You?

Imagine your organization as a mansion – VA is the process of examining if all the doors are strong enough to protect you and your belongings from invaders. Here are some benefits to look forward to:

  • Know your vulnerabilities before hackers do: Knowing your weaknesses is the foundation of a great defence strategy against your enemies and VA scans all your network components to identify the vulnerabilities that can be entry points for a cyberattack.
  • Credibility and trust with all your stakeholders: Organizations with a secure system and well protected data is an important factor that customers and clients demand from their service providers. VA is an excellent competitive advantage for you to showcase and assure safety and credibility with your most important stakeholders.
  • Saves you from a wormhole of liabilities and damages: Remedying cyberattacks costs time and money and data breaches can lead to expensive litigations – two undesirable consequences for any organization. VA is designed to mitigate such risks and is a way to reduce the risk of any liabilities, limitations and damages arising from security attacks and breaches.
  • Evaluate third-party providers’ security and performance: If you’re an organization that uses software from third-party vendors for email, system administration or backup, an independent VA is a great way to assess the performance of these IT services and keep them in line with your security processes.

Vulnerability Assessment vs Penetration Testing vs Security Audit

The universe of cybersecurity rests on three pillars – Vulnerability Assessment, Penetration Testing and Security Audit – with VA and Pen Testing often used interchangeably. While they are correlated, they contribute differently to your overall IT infrastructure hygiene.

Security Auditing is a defensive strategy that reviews if your IT infrastructure is functioning according to security practices.

VA takes an offensive approach but primarily aims to harden the defences of your IT systems through identification of vulnerabilities and mitigation recommendations.

Pen testing is an offensive strategy and a type of ethical hacking where professionals check for exploitable vulnerabilities 

Key Takeaways:

  •  VA fortifies your IT infrastructure hygiene by identifying vulnerabilities, prioritising them and offering suggestions on how to remedy these vulnerabilities
  • VA is conducted in 5 comprehensive steps including severity assessment and mitigation recommendations
  • VA safeguards organizations from cyberattacks, reputational risks and damages to IT systems
  • Read Blog 2 to explore Vulnerability Assessment with Advanced Training
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