How to Assess Cyber Security Vulnerabilities

As recently as the early 1990s, the main security concern of most companies was whether their business facilities were secure against breaking and entering. If thieves got inside a building, they could steal physical files or disks with sensitive information. But they had to be on the inside to do it.

The internet as we know it today has accelerated the pace of communication and computer capabilities at an unprecedented rate. By conducting business online, we expose ourselves to threats not just from within the building, but across the entire world. In order to gauge the extent to which your company is at risk, it’s important to conduct a cybersecurity vulnerability assessment.

The Rise of Cyber Security Vulnerability Management

Break-ins that target hardware still occur. But today, the most common IT heists typically involve hacking past a firewall to download data, such as credit card credentials and personal information that can be used for identity theft.

Cyber security vulnerability assessment and management are important parts of staying one step ahead of these digital threats. This is an important aspect of modern cyber security. It involves identifying weaknesses that cyber criminals could potentially exploit.

Any company without the resources to conduct these assessments in-house should look to a managed IT provider who can help. They can help you estimate your cost for the assessments discussed below, so you can consider your assessment needs and your budget concurrently. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Cyber Security Vulnerability: 3 Crucial Assessments

An extensive range of assessments is available, and choosing which of them to use for managing vulnerability varies as widely as a company’s IT needs. At the same time, there are three types of cyber security vulnerability assessment that practically any company, of any size, in any industry, can request with confidence, without picking an IT consultant’s brain for specifics:

1. Hardware Assessments

When they consider the potential vulnerabilities of hardware in their IT system, some companies consider the age of the equipment as the biggest factor. A common assumption is that older hardware is more vulnerable than equipment that hit the market in the last three to five years, which is not necessarily the case. There’s a difference between hardware that time makes obsolete and equipment that becomes vulnerable to attack, as hackers spend time poking and prodding it to find soft spots.

Furthermore, although hackers have had more time to study older hardware, they tend to tinker with the most commonly used brands and editions, as this allows them to maximize their choice of targets. Consequently, they often focus their attention on newer editions of popular brands over older releases from less preferred brands. Like most types of criminals, they are creatures of opportunity. The more common your type of hardware, the likelier you are to be a target, simply in terms of hardware alone.

With that said, whether legacy hardware or the latest technology is your building — and whether it’s a major brand or an up and coming label that major brands hope to marginalize in the marketplace — we highly recommend examining the equipment’s vulnerability, assessing its in these four respects, as applicable:

  • Facilitation of application development
  • Unused and/or unwanted ports
  • Unused and/or unwanted protocols
  • Storage and/or transmission of encrypted data

The goal of a cyber security vulnerability assessment for hardware is to enhance the device hardening process, in order to mitigate vulnerability. In some instances, the best solution is indeed to use newer hardware. If it can’t be hardened for robust protection against newfound vulnerabilities, it is past its technological prime. However, the most common recommendation is the optimization of device hardening. The party that performs your assessment can offer guidance.

2. Software Assessments

A software vulnerability assessment reveals weaknesses in software code that is the “language” of software. Three correlating factors define the assessment: the existence of vulnerabilities, the potential for hackers to access the weaknesses, and the general aptitude of hackers to exploit points of weakness. Assessment is tailored to the types of software you use. However, nearly all types of software should be tested for these vulnerability types:

  • SQL injection
  • OS command injection
  • Buffer overflow
  • Integer overflow
  • Uncontrolled format string

A twofold variable defines the magnitude of threat a vulnerability poses: information hackers could gain by exposing the vulnerability, which thus predicts their motivation to expose it. For example, payroll software that contains employee information hackers could use to secure fraudulent lines of credit is more attractive than project management software that organizes the delegation of daily tasks, and primarily contains descriptive task information.

However, a cyber security vulnerability assessment manager or provider won’t say that vulnerabilities in project management software are acceptable. If a disgruntled, former employee hacked the software to cause chaos, it could affect work for clients, potentially causing them to cancel services.

Any vulnerability, in any type of software, should be addressed with changes to software language, in order to make the app more secure. If a vulnerable app is owned by a third party that controls the language, replacing the software is the most efficient option.

3. Procedure Assessments

In some instances, hardware and software vulnerabilities result from procedures that define hardware and software use, not vulnerabilities inherent to hardware build or software language. To show the importance of this type of assessment, we’ll provide some hypothetical examples: one for hardware, and another for software.

Example 1: Hardware

A digital marketing agency’s offsite data storage process has three phases: storing data in an onsite data silo, keeping it there for about a week to parse superfluous data from data that is indispensable, and then forwarding the latter offsite. A vulnerability assessment could reveal that housing data in the silo is a vulnerability that an automated parsing function, which would essentially condense the procedure to two phases, could extirpate.

Example 2: Software

An online retailer uses software that can retain customer payment information to autofill fields at the payment destination. A vulnerability assessment could reveal that this autofill information is visible to a third party. The assessor concludes that the patent risk of empowering hackers to defraud customers outweighs the prospective reward of shaving a few seconds from the payment process.

Fortifying a Procedure

Cyber security vulnerability assessments can examine procedures of varying expanse and impact, from micro processes with no ripple effect, to macro processes that transcend a myriad of sub-processes, to medial processes of circumscribed scope. Regardless of the procedure that’s assessed, its vulnerabilities may be addressed with some of the strategies below, which can modify procedures to comply with cyber security best practices:

  • Adding certain steps to strengthen integrity
  • Cutting certain steps to reduce risk exposure
  • Resolving step-specific vulnerabilities
  • Automations that reduce human error
  • Upgrading facilitative resources
  • Enhancement of quality control

Strategies for vacating vulnerability depend on two factors: whether a procedure must use certain means to achieve a desired end, and the degree to which the means are mutually impactful. Is the procedure like a blade server chassis, where one element can be replaced without affecting the rest? Or is it more like an IT network, where altering a switch changes what’s delivered down the line? A vulnerability assessment should provide to the answers.

Need a Cyber Security Vulnerability Assessment?

How often a cyber security vulnerability assessment should be performed on an element in your company’s IT system may vary by several factors. Particularly: the statistical and/or general level of threat in your industry, the history of vulnerability at your company, recent history that points to a marked increase or decrease in vulnerabilities, and the type and level of damage that could result from an element being compromised.

Contact NIC Today to Receive a Free Consultation

Cyber security vulnerability management that keeps you well-protected has a trio of stellar traits: assessments are performed in a timely fashion, are used to proactively address vulnerabilities, and ensure that you are safer than before, in both theory and reality. If your cyber security vulnerability needs an expert assessment, NIC will be your third-party ally.

We’ll help you resolve vulnerabilities to avert the most detestable IT problem of all: getting reamed by a hacker, whose vulnerability to his own bad character pays him well. Schedule a free consultation today, and gain something even better: True IT security and peace of mind.

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