February 23, 2022

Modernizing Vulnerability Management with Risk-Based Prioritization

The process of identifying the most important vulnerabilities is a challenge every cybersecurity team faces

To keep up with the ever-changing and evolving threats in the cybersecurity field, modern companies are investing more in protection than ever before. Despite these efforts, vulnerability prioritization is often overlooked as a key aspect of an organization’s security landscape.

Understanding why vulnerability management is such a critical factor in the cybersecurity strategy of a company is the first step towards making it a priority.

Why Vulnerability Prioritization is key

Given the multitude of incidents a company can be exposed to in the current web panorama, it is nearly impossible to be protected from every looming threat. Considering the thousands of assets a company possesses, it’s only normal that the number of reported vulnerabilities grows every year

Scanning every nook and cranny of a modern business can be overwhelming. It is therefore essential to single out the most critical vulnerabilities to mitigate the outcomes of this near-impossible task.

In fact, the most important step in this process is precisely selecting the vulnerabilities that entail the highest risks for the organization, which means, in other words, prioritization.

When it comes to cybersecurity, businesses need to strategize and allocate resources to what matters most. By prioritizing, companies can accomplish that and are setting themselves up for smoother remediation in the event of a breach.

There are a few methods contemporary businesses can choose from to achieve it.

How companies prioritize using CVSS

The most common way organizations prioritize is by using the CVSS (Common Vulnerability Scoring System) score. CVSS uses a scale that ranges from 1 to 10 (where the highest risk vulnerabilities are scored a 10) and is much appreciated because of their accessibility and for being easy to comprehend.

Companies with security teams that opt for using CVSS scores usually focus on vulnerabilities scoring higher than a 7 on the scale. A common practice is the creation of a spreadsheet that comprises every vulnerability considered significant (7 or higher), with the most prominent ones closer to 10 are located on top.

CVSS shortcomings

While CVSS has its strengths, the downsides should also be highlighted. One of the main issues is that its scoring system works by assigning a rate that remains static for the vulnerability’s whole lifetime. Cataloging a vulnerability involves attributing it a CVE (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures) number and then a CVSS score that will be featured in the National Vulnerability Database.

This translates to a scoring system that’s rarely updated, if ever. Once it is cataloged, a CVSS score is static and based on the initial assessment of the risk associated with a certain vulnerability, when in fact, vulnerabilities and their inherent risk, fluctuate. A high-risk vulnerability today might shift into a lower-tier vulnerability in the same environment in the long term, and vice-versa.

Another of the shortcomings CVSS presents is the meaning of the score itself. CVSS scores are standalone values that lack context in the grand scheme of a cybersecurity environment within a company. IT teams often lack the necessary information to analyze a vulnerability and properly assess its risk using CVSS scores alone.

Risk Management Frameworks as an alternative

Companies with a more advanced cybersecurity landscape will often look past CVSS scores and prefer more complex models that give them information about vulnerabilities at a granular level.

Most of these frameworks combine two factors: the likelihood of an event happening, and the impact of such an incident. The risk of a given vulnerability to an organization can be obtained by multiplying the two.

Likelihood

These frameworks have evolved in such a way that gauging the likelihood of an event has been refined with the help of tools like artificial intelligence that, by running through the history of vulnerability incidents, and also by going through models which shed light on remediation, help to position the goalposts in what concerns the likelihood of an event.

Impact

Evaluating the impact of an incident can prove to be a daunting task simply because each incident is unique. There is a swarm of aspects that can influence the impact of a vulnerability inside an organization. Context is key, and that’s why coming up with an accurate scale for impact is nearly impossible.

Businesses can go two different ways here: qualitative or quantitative measurement. Quantitative measurements try to come up with a dollar value of an incident, while qualitative scales impact in tiers (such as low impact, medium impact, high impact, for instance).

Cybersecurity teams can analyze the impact of a vulnerability by assessing loss of credibility, financial loss, or even resources spent on possible lawsuits. While this is possible for a relatively small amount of assets, scaling this model to a big corporation is impossible.

Key takeaways

There is no simple fix that takes care of vulnerability prioritization inside a company. Whether you go down the CVSS path or opt for a more modern risk assessment framework, chances are you won’t be able to perfectly determine which vulnerabilities are the ones that need attention inside your organization.

Cybersecurity isn’t a static medium, and its complexity means that you won’t ever be fully protected. However, choosing the correct vulnerability prioritization is among the best ways to ensure you’re allocating your attention to the assets that matter.

For the time being, risk management frameworks seem to be the most complete method to tackle prioritization, and most leading companies use modern tools to help with the scalability issues that arise with it. For instance, using machine learning to help with repeatable actions which in turn helps with categorizing impact and likelihood.

The ultimate goal should be reducing risk, and while in the past organizations provided their IT teams with vulnerability scores with little to no insight about them, more recently the name of the game is contextual prioritization, where assessing risk is all in the details.

How HivePro Uni5 can help

If you need to double your operational efficiency in what concerns cyber security asset management software, HivePro Uni5 is the perfect fit. Being a perfectly crafted combination of ease of use, efficiency, and value, this vulnerability prioritization tool will seamlessly fit into your current landscape and provide you with a much-needed added layer of security.

By using 4 different buckets for risk scoring, HivePro’s vulnerability prioritization tool will provide companies with a true risk score which will help with risk assessment in an intuitive and concrete way.

By splitting the scores into 4, businesses using the tool will be advised to tackle the vulnerabilities that combine the highest threat and impact on the organization, and every other vulnerability will follow suit. Uni5 will map out the correct vulnerability prioritization program inside a company and will do so by exploiting contextualized information, while also using actionable intelligence which will quickly take care of vulnerability remediation planning. 

If you want to take the next step into the future of vulnerability prioritization, read more about HivePro Uni5.

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