In the first installment of my vulnerability management blog series, I discuss the pitfalls of not having a vulnerability testing and tracking strategy and the serious consequences of failing to recognize what is meaningful to the business. In part two of the series, I will expand on the idea of recognizing what is meaningful to the business and discuss the importance of business context in vulnerability management.
It sounds nebulous, and for good reason. From my observations over the years, I’ve heard claims that the best approach to cyber security is either 1) purchasing more technology to keep ahead of the latest vulnerabilities or 2) changing behaviors that pose the most risk, such as clicking on unknown links or using stronger passwords. While there is a place in a security program for these and other security measures, time and budget constraints create major barriers. Instead of asking, “which new technologies do we need to add to our security stack?” or “why isn’t my organization getting a perfect score on our phishing assessments?”, the most important question that needs to be asked is, “So what?”
“So what?” is arguably one of the most elemental and important criteria in any cybersecurity situation, from policy to technical security controls. The question forms the basis of nearly every security decision and requires alignment to core business objectives to be determined and applied before a direction is taken. Recognizing how each security decision impacts your business is vital. To understand the importance of “So what?” we must first understand its place in your cyber security strategy.
Strategy is another concept that can mean different things to different people, in part because there is not a standard approach to cyber security program development. Each business has different security needs. As security leaders, we address the threats that pose imminent and perceived harm to the environment, and those that get noticed most, get attention first. And understandably so, given the ever-advancing threats companies face. Often is the case, however, that what is considered harmful to the environment is not always rooted in what is most important, or what poses the most risk to a business. That is where a business-aligned vulnerability management program comes into play.
How to Achieve a Business-Aligned Vulnerability Management Program
A business-aligned vulnerability management program takes into consideration the vulnerabilities that would have the most significant, negative impact on the business, the most relevant threats that could exploit those vulnerabilities, how to remediate, as well as the controls needed to counter those threats. Such a strategy is built on a framework that enables, implements, and maintains the program and informs all security initiatives, controls, and processes.
Once a business-aligned vulnerability management program is in place, we can ask, “So what?” when considering a potential risk, a discovered vulnerability, a detected event, a proposed initiative, or virtually any other consideration affecting security posture. Let’s look at a few hypothetical vulnerability findings: