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How to Develop an IT Vulnerability Assessment

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In terms of information security, vulnerability is a weakness that is found in an asset or a control and that can be exploited by one or more threats, which becomes a security risk. One way to protect the information is through the identification, assessment, prioritization and correction of the weaknesses identified in the assets.

This activity is known as Vulnerability Assessment, and it aims to find weaknesses in software or hardware platforms to solve failures, before they can generate a negative impact.

Every security analyst knows that managing vulnerabilities in a corporate network is a never-ending task. According to the study “2017 Enterprise Management Associates”, there are on average 10 vulnerabilities for each IT asset, which amount to an average of about 20,000 vulnerabilities that a midmarket company has to manage at any given time. It is no wonder, then, that 74% of security teams said they were overwhelmed by the amount of vulnerability maintenance work.

With all the stress and scarcity of staff that many teams face due to the cyber security skills crisis, how can these security teams handle the huge volume of vulnerabilities? While it is practically impossible to resolve any vulnerability, with automation and with a correct definition of priorities, security teams can keep vulnerabilities to a manageable level and take care of those that present the greatest risk to the organization.

A vulnerability assessment will help you avoid these kinds of mistakes by helping you make informed business decisions. Instead of approaching security in a dispersed manner, you can use your resources to improve data protection in a meaningful way.

IT managers must protect the weak links in their IT systems. But it is still necessary to know where these weaknesses are. Here’s a IT vulnerability assessment checklist on how to perform or develop an IT vulnerability assessment to establish a security strategy that’s right for your business.

Analyze Critical Business Processes

To be able to put the vulnerabilities of your computer system into perspective, you must first make sure you understand its business processes, especially those that require high levels of compliance and confidentiality. With the support of the various departments of the company, including finance and legal affairs, take the time to identify these processes and the information, applications and infrastructure on which they are based, and then rank them in order of importance.

Remember to consider “hidden” data. The most recent and sensitive information is often found in mobile phones and laptops or fixed-line employees and suppliers. Make sure you understand who uses these devices and how these data flow. Check if these people are providing professional information through public email services, such as Gmail or Yahoo! Corporate branches and the IT department, which use sensitive data to test new applications, can also be weak links.

Perform “Mapping” of the Network

Once the critical processes are targeted, inventory the hardware to get an overview of your network. Identify virtual and physical servers and storage devices, especially those that deliver important applications or contain sensitive information. Include routers and network devices that support the speed and security of your applications and hardware.

Also, list the security measures already implemented to protect important hardware: internal policies, firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS), virtual private networks (VPNs), and leak prevention systems.

Conduct research and call vendors to ensure you understand the features and protection offered by these devices.

Detect Vulnerabilities

Once this inventory is completed, it is time to move to the actual security analysis. Use a vulnerability scanner to detect vulnerabilities in your system. This analysis will generate a multitude of results, ranked in order of severity. The analysis of this highly technical report is often laborious and complex, and it is sometimes useful to entrust it to a security company.

Analyze the Results

Always analyze the results against your specific context and business processes. Some vulnerabilities need to be addressed without delay, such as those that could put at risk one or more important or sensitive business processes, while others require less attention, such as those affecting infrastructure already protected by multilayer systems. Finally, if your vulnerability analysis recommends the installation of various updates and patches for different software, it might be interesting to consider an integrated security solution.

Final Words

In conclusion, a well-conducted IT vulnerability assessment will allow you to target your priorities, establish a security strategy tailored to your needs, use your resources wisely and better protect your business.

Your team will save time and money, and your entire organization will win!

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