It’s hard to believe that after all these years, there are many businesses that continue to neglect proper vulnerability assessments on their data infrastructures. According to IBM’s 2018 Cost of a Data Breach study, the average total cost of a data breach is now $3.86 million, which represents a considerable increase of 6.4 percent over the 2017 study.
Not even new regulatory requirements have achieved to establish a healthy culture of prioritizing corporate cybersecurity, something that begins with regular vulnerability assessments. At most, some businesses carry out assessments once in a while, especially when they get anxious over alarming news. But that anxiety fades away and the old habits of neglecting smart practices come back.
The reality is that the future of a modern company is closely linked to its cybersecurity methods. A cybersecurity breach can lead to massive loss of data and ultimately to bankruptcy. So, why and how to make a vulnerability assessment?
Understanding Vulnerability Assessments
A vulnerability assessment is simply a process where a cybersecurity professional (or a full team, depending on the infrastructure’s features) audits a company’s networks, systems, and hardware in the search of potential vulnerabilities and the subsequent solutions to implement. The solutions in question also involve implementing prevention mechanisms, even if no vulnerabilities have been found during the assessment.
An important part of the vulnerability assessment is to understand which elements of the business’ infrastructure are more valuable, therefore, with a higher priority in terms of cybersecurity.
A properly executed vulnerability assessment allows a business to understand its infrastructure and to detect on time the potential vulnerability that may be exploited by cybercriminals. Only by doing this is possible to conveniently implement the fixes and security methods that would effectively prevent an attack. It can also help to mitigate existing exploits.
The Stages of a Vulnerability Assessment
We can dissect a vulnerability assessment in five different stages that contain the required processes to get it done. Those stages are planning, scanning, analysis, remediation, and repetition.
As it happens with every single project we carry out, we need a stage of planning in order to determine what, how, and when we are going to take action. Planning is all about determining which parts of the infrastructure will be subject of the assessment. Location of sensitive data must be identified at this point, giving clear direction to the IT team. The ways of communication between the parties involved in the process will be also defined here.
Then we go with the scanning stage, where manual and automated methods will be applied to identify flaws and potential vulnerabilities. Threat intelligence used during this stage will be key to place the relevant issues apart.
With the data obtained during the scanning stage, the team will proceed with proper analysis. Here, professionals will go into the details to determine the real threats and to propose proper methods of remediation and mitigation. If damage has been done to the company’s assets through its infrastructure, that will be documented during this stage.
Remediation is the fourth stage of the vulnerability assessment. The top priority here is to implement the methods that will fix and repair flaws in the system. Methods go from the simplest ones to large-scale projects, depending on how bad the situation is. The most urgent vulnerabilities, of course, will be treated first.
After the remediation of all the flaws identified, repetition comes. This last stage represents the mindset of scheduling vulnerability assessments regularly. It is not strange for many companies to carry out this kind of assessments on a weekly basis, something that says plenty of businesses that do it once a year. Scheduling frequent assessments are especially recommended when constant changes take place in the company’s infrastructure.