For years now, security professionals have focused on gathering more and more data from their vulnerability management programs. Patch information, configuration details, inventory information, local file system data, and most importantly, vulnerability data that can help us find and fix problems as fast as possible.
Well, we’ve gotten our wish – there’s plenty of data to go around. Although, many of us have experienced the dawning realization that the pendulum may have swung too far, and find ourselves drowning in data more often than not. Is this really what we wanted?
To some degree, the answer is yes. Truthfully, we need more data, and in particular data that is more varied and provides insight into system and application risk across the entire environment. The good news is that most modern scanning tools can accommodate this request. However, once scans are complete, and the data is in, what now? All too often, security teams have to wade through a sea of not-so-relevant and not-too-interesting results that take up inordinate amounts of time.
The time is right for actionable data. Just scraping a bunch of information from systems and applications is only a starting point, because we’ll want to start paring down low-level vulnerabilities that aren’t relevant to us, as well as eliminate time spent chasing false positives. We need to ask ourselves the following questions:
- Is the information important to share with stakeholders?
- Does the data allow me to actually remediate vulnerabilities?
- Will we act upon this, and where does it fall in terms of priorities?
With more advanced analytic capabilities built into our solutions, we can start to dial back the noise. Tuning our reports for different audiences, and focusing on the most critical and fixable vulnerabilities should be top of mind for any security pros responsible for managing vulnerabilities within their organizations. In security, we always joke about the “phone book size report” when handing scan data off to operational teams. That joke isn’t funny anymore - too many organizations are still doing this, and we really need to focus on distilling our scans into something meaningful, usable, and actionable.
It’s all about context, folks. What do people need to see, and what reports are most practical and useful? Depending on whom you’re talking to, the answers will likely differ. Ops teams will want detailed information, development and application teams will want levels up from that, and executives and business unit managers will want colorful dashboards. How much time are we spending coming up with the right data sets, cutting out results that aren’t important, and providing input to teams responsible for remediation and incident response? When you have to spend hours wading through this data just to get decent reports built, it’s time for a change.
Vulnerability management is a foundational component in our security architectures. It can help us discover what’s connected to our networks, put context around what systems and applications are most at risk, track threats over time, and communicate our progress to varied stakeholders across our organizations. Are you getting the most out of your vulnerability management program?
Join me in this informative live webinar as I take a look at new cyber security technologies and trends for managing your ever growing pile of security data, as well as, how to get the most from it. Register now!
Dave Shackleford, Cybersecurity Expert and Founder of Voodoo Security
Dave Shackleford is the owner and principal consultant of Voodoo Security and a SANS analyst, senior instructor, and course author. He has consulted with hundreds of organizations in the areas of security, regulatory compliance, and network architecture and engineering, and is a VMware vExpert with extensive experience designing and configuring secure virtualized infrastructures. He has previously worked as CSO for Configuresoft, CTO for the Center for Internet Security, and as a security architect, analyst, and manager for several Fortune 500 companies.