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 organisations 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 organisation’s 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 prioritising security vulnerabilities or weaknesses in an organisation’s IT systems and infrastructure. Through this process, it identifies and evaluates any vulnerabilities, determines severity levels and suggests remedies to mitigate the identified vulnerabilities.

Let’s explore how this happens with the 5 steps of cyber vulnerability assessment (VA).

The Vulnerability Assessment 5 Step 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Risk Assessment: The vulnerabilities are assessed and prioritised 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 organisational functions depend on the system, the cost of data breach according to your industry, what data is stored, the ease of cyberattack or compromise, etc.
  4. Remediation: According to the cyber security assessment, impacted software/hardware is 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.
  5. 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 organisation 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 when you conduct vulnerability assessment services on your organisation’s IT infrastructure:

  • Know your vulnerabilities before hackers do: Knowing your weaknesses is the foundation of a great defence strategy against your enemies. Cybersecurity vulnerability assessment scans all your network components to identify the vulnerabilities that can be entry points for a cyberattack.
  • Credibility and trust with all your stakeholders: An organisation must have a secure system with well protected data to satisfy customers and clients. Vulnerability assessment 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 organisation. With vulnerability assessment and penetration testing, you can mitigate such risks and 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 organisation 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.
  • Penetration testing, or 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 organisations from cyberattacks, reputational risks and damages to IT systems

Read Blog 2 to explore how Advanced Training can conduct vulnerability assessment for your organization.

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