According to the National Vulnerability Database (NVD), the number of new security vulnerabilities increases steadily over the past few years.
Image source: NVD
The consistent rise in the number of security vulnerabilities along with headline-catching exploits like the SolarWind supply chain attack earlier this year has organizations doubling down on vulnerability management programs to ensure that they are not exposed to malicious attacks.
As known vulnerabilities are closely tracked by malicious players looking for their next big exploit, it’s crucial that software organizations work to stay one step ahead of the hackers, with a vulnerability management process that can detect and remediate the security vulnerabilities in their systems.
While vulnerability management programs are not a new concept, today’s dynamic software development ecosystem and the evolving threat landscape demand that organizations keep their vulnerability management processes current, and make sure that they are prepared for any threat that might come their way.
A vulnerability management plan usually includes detection, prioritization, remediation, and reporting. Each one of these steps needs to be continuously updated to address new environments and risks, with the goal of making the process easier and quicker for overworked development and security teams. Let’s take a look at each of these parts to see how organizations can ensure that they are prepared for any security threat coming their way.
Until recently, much of an organization’s mandatory vulnerability management program relied predominantly on scanning tools. Teams would perform mandatory monthly or quarterly configuration audits and network scans, which would produce lengthy reports that no team could cover completely. This meant organizations invested a lot of time attempting to verify and address all reported threats, never quite succeeding in resolving them all.
Evolving development ecosystems, fast-paced development demands, and the rise in the number of known security vulnerabilities require a new approach to vulnerability identification, and automated scanning tools for a variety of systems and platforms.
Organizations looking forward have to make sure that they know exactly which software components and platforms they are using, and whether they contain newly discovered vulnerabilities. This requires a number of tools for continuously tracking the components in your development environment and products, along with actionable data and insights regarding vulnerabilities.
In addition to covering traditional network infrastructure, organizations need to ensure that they are efficiently scanning a much broader attack surface that consists of dynamic assets like cloud services and containers. These new types of platforms are more difficult to track with traditional tools, because they might not be continuously running on the network.
But wait — there are still more layers that have become extremely vulnerable to attacks that need tracking, like the database layer, and the application layers that require SAST and DAST tools.
Another security risk that lies within today’s complex and dynamic systems are open source vulnerabilities. Open source components are an essential building block for developers, and are backed by an active community that does its best to uncover and create fixes for vulnerabilities in their projects. An organization that wants to face present and future threats must include dedicated automatic tools that manage open source components and their risks, because traditional SAST and DAST tools simply don’t cover those. Instead, organizations need to adopt advanced Software Composition Analysis technologies that provide them with the capabilities to detect, monitor, and alert on vulnerable open source components.
If organizations want to keep up with the hectic pace of development, all of these security tools need to be shifted left and integrated into the earliest stages of the software development lifecycle, so that any vulnerabilities found can be addressed and mitigated without throwing production off schedule.
Traditionally, vulnerability management programs focus on identification and detection. However, organizations that track all of the layers and risks listed above, often find their teams buried under a never-ending list of security alerts for all of the vulnerabilities detected.
Not all vulnerabilities are created equal, and organizations can’t afford to blindly plow their way through hundreds of newly discovered vulnerabilities, hoping that they hit the ones that pose the biggest threat. If companies want to stay on top of security, they have to start prioritizing their vulnerability management.
Tomorrow’s vulnerability management software helps teams to prioritize the biggest risks that can be most damaging to an organization. Advanced solutions will include threat intelligence insights and tools that allow vulnerability data to be integrated with risk assessment and remediation in order to help teams address the riskiest issues first based on parameters like their impact on the code.
After locating all security vulnerabilities in the system and determining which are the most critical, automatic remediation and mitigation that can be easily tracked are the next step. Having a patch management policy in place that tests and applies the right patches to all affected areas in an efficient and timely manner is essential.
Advanced vulnerability management solutions will help teams work together to ensure that security threats are addressed quickly, based on vulnerability prioritization. They ensure that fixes are verified, don’t break the build, and don’t interfere with other components and processes. A solid remediation solution helps all teams involved in the process — Developers, Security, and DevOps — are in sync so that the entire vulnerability management process runs smoothly.
While the security community has been warning against supply chain security risks for years, the importance of supply chain security has become a hot topic since a number of attacks have recently been featured prominently in the press. In July 2021, following President Biden’s Executive Order, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released the minimum elements needed for a software bill of materials (SBOM), to improve transparency in software supply chains for both technology vendors and government customers.
This latest requirement further highlights the need for reporting as an essential part of a comprehensive vulnerability management program. Ensuring your organization can easily produce a real-time SBOM that reflects the health of your products, and the processes used to continuously identify and address supply chain risks, has become not only key to ensuring your software development ecosystem is secure, but also key to compliance.
As threat landscapes evolve, vulnerability management programs are expected to integrate new automated solutions that will help organizations remain one step ahead of the hackers, managing security risks without having to sacrifice agility or speed.
Organizations that are able to put a program in place that allows them to continuously track their software development ecosystem, including its supply chain, providing automated prioritization, remediation, and reporting solutions, can look forward to a bright, secure future of smooth sprints and easy releases.