How Often Should Vulnerability Assessments Be Performed?

Daniel Tobok
E: daniel@cytelligence.com
Posted on: March 20, 2019

What is a Vulnerability Assessment?

In a Nutshell:
A
vulnerability assessment is a thorough evaluation of existing and potential threats, weaknesses and, indeed, vulnerabilities in your organization’s systems and networks.

Vulnerability analysis involves locating, determining the magnitude of, and prioritizing any flaws in your cybersecurity, before those flaws are exploited by bad actors. In the process, a vulnerability assessment takes stock of your existing cyber security policies in order to help you improve those safeguards.

“Cyber-crime is the greatest threat to every company in the world.”

Those are the words of IBM’s Chairman, President, and CEO, Ginni Rometty, in 2015.

Since the threats to corporate cybersecurity have increased:

  • The potential cost of cyber-crime internationally is $500 billion a year
  • Data breaches will cost the average company more than $3.5 billion
  • Ransomware attacks grew by 36% in 2017
  • 1 in every 131 emails contains malware
  • 43% of cyber-attacks target small businesses
  • 230,000 new malware threats are produced every day

Why is Vulnerability Assessment Important?

Today, almost everything is connected to the Internet, which can be a dangerous place. Within any organization, employees are using email, remote access, and the internet on a daily basis, opening the door for a potential cyber breach at any moment. And it’s nearly impossible to monitor and manage every point of entry within your network.

I don’t know that much about cyber (attacks), but I do think that’s the number one problem with mankind

said Warren Buffet, Berkshire Hathaway CEO, at an investor meeting, where he suggested that cyber attacks are a more dangerous and imminent threat than nuclear, biological or chemical warfare.

An effective way to mitigate the impact of a potential cyber threat is to establish organizational policies related to regular vulnerability assessments, which will provide the company with insights into where it can improve its cybersecurity efforts.

What is the Purpose of a Vulnerability Assessment?

The purpose of a network vulnerability assessment is to take stock of your system’s overall security and identify any weaknesses that exist in your organization’s IT infrastructure. A vulnerability assessment proactively tests and identifies the potential of your system to be breached by bad actors, while also determining exactly how much of your system could be compromised in event of such a breach. It tests the resilience of your systems and networks to withstand cyber attacks.

In analyzing the risks your organization faces, a comprehensive disaster risk and vulnerability assessment helps you protect your organization from any existing or potential cyber threats. It also helps you understand the full extent of your vulnerability, while giving you the necessary tools to implement new policies that will better protect your organization. A vulnerability assessment is a jumping-off point, from which you can identify vulnerabilities and begin mitigating them.

What Does a Vulnerability Assessment Provide?

Your vulnerability assessment will provide you with a vulnerability assessment checklist that you can use for regular maintenance and protection of your systems and networks. Think of this as your roadmap to guide you as you conduct periodic tests to proactively search for new risks that could potentially compromise your organization’s security. It will help you integrate cybersecurity into the everyday landscape of your organization, with the goal of better protecting your data.

Your vulnerability assessment will also yield a vulnerability assessment report, which acts as a diagnostic tool for understanding the current cyber “health” of your organization. This detailed reported will analyze exactly where your security weaknesses are, while simultaneously assessing which areas you should prioritize as you create a more comprehensive security system. Ultimately, this vulnerability assessment report will serve as a jumping off point to help you start implementing better security mechanisms at your organization.

Performing Proper Vulnerability Assessments

A comprehensive vulnerability assessment consists of the following steps:

    1. Install a vulnerability scanner and implement a scanning schedule – Typically, organizations should scan their network at least once a month to protect any existing and developing cyber threats.

 

    1. Scan your organization’s network to address any potential vulnerabilities – This monthly network scan should include all devices with an IP address, such as desktops, laptops, printers, routers, switches, hubs, servers, wired and wireless network, and firewalls.

 

    1. Scan any devices connected to an associated IP-address or internal network – This includes multi-function printers, like copy machines.

 

    1. Identify any changes, pending updates or missing software patches – Neglecting to update your software regularly can leave your system vulnerable. Indeed, some of the most damaging hacks in recent history have occurred simply because organizations did not maintain timely software updates. The recent hack at Equifax, one of the world’s top credit reporting agencies, occurred because it hadn’t updated a known security flaw with a patch that was made available months earlier.

 

    1. Identify and prioritize risks – It is vital to assess your databases and identify which areas are the most high-risk and essential to your organizational health. This ensures that you’re focusing your energies on what’s most important. Typically, an organization’s financial data is among the most valuable, and vulnerable, areas of their network.

 

    1. Select strategic risk-based remediation – Any thorough scan is likely to surface some vulnerabilities. Now it’s time to fix them. Implement remediation efforts, while prioritizing your most high-risk data.

 

  1. Conduct remediation work – Ideally, you’ll want to plan to execute your premeditation work during existing scheduled maintenance periods. This ensures minimal interruptions in your network’s service, and maximal convenience to your team and your clients.

Disaster Recovery Plan

At the same time, you want to be prepared for the worst. That’s why it’s vital to ensure that you have a disaster recovery plan in place. A disaster recovery plan is an organized, predesignated set of procedures to help your business recover from a cyber attack or any other emergency. This plan should include what to do if your assessment reveals a vulnerability (or an actual breach), or if malware, ransomware, or a virus has managed to infect your systems.

The biggest priority in any disaster recovery plan is data loss prevention, which ensures that your company does not lose valuable assets. It involves implementing automatic backup and cloud backup for all laptops and desktops, as well as regular off-site backups or data replication at off-site locations. A comprehensive disaster recovery plan will also have a documented process for restoring corrupted drives and recovering any deleted data.

A disaster recovery plan is vital for any business, large or small. Think of it as an investment in your company’s security, and a precautionary measure with which to avoid incurring larger losses in event of a data breach or other disaster. By implementing thorough measures to protect every corner of your company’s systems and networks, you are safeguarding your future.

Consider Getting Outside Help

It’s not enough to run automated scans and do periodic testing. Are you also performing
penetration testing, vulnerability assessments, security audits, and code reviews? If you want to maximize your protection against cybersecurity threats, you may need to consider bringing in professionals to help you monitor and maintain your system. Performing a complete analysis of your systems can provide your organization with the protection it needs to keep proprietary data safe and ensure disruptions to your day-to-day business are minimized.