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Overseeing Your Organization’s Security Posture with Active Vulnerability Management

March 26th, 2007

Many IT executives today are tasked with finding a way to understand their organization’s true security posture, as they must prove that “due care” is being taken to secure their networks. The pressure to prove true security levels comes from business partners, company executives, industry regulations, and maintaining company reputation.

According to the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), 95% of security breaches could be prevented by keeping systems up-to-date with appropriate patches, i.e. “known vulnerabilities or configuration errors where countermeasures were available.”

Implementing a solid vulnerability management life cycle throughout an organization’s IT operations is the most significant step toward proof that solid security measures have been implemented and are continually enforced. Vulnerability management is the process of systematically locating and identifying security and other vulnerabilities within operating systems and applications, and applying patches, re-configuring machines, and removing unapproved software to mitigate these risks.

A recent vulnerability management survey was conducted by Trusted Strategies, an information security industry consulting and market intelligence firm, and was aimed at identifying how companies assess, remediate and manage vulnerabilities, and where security policies break down or are under supported by current solutions. The e-mail survey drew responses from more than 150 U.S.-based IT security professionals, and points to a lack of automated solutions to support security configuration management at the edge of the network as an ongoing and critical flaw in vulnerability management offerings.

The survey revealed that while most organizations have some level of automation, nearly all agree that full automation and integration with other related systems is critical yet fewer than a quarter of them have it in place. And most at risk in these organizations are their mobile laptops. The numbers and percentages of mobile laptops are quickly expanding. Over forty-one percent (41.5%) of survey participants had more than a thousand mobile laptops within their organization. When asked which of laptops, servers, or desktops posed the greatest threat to maintaining their security posture, over sixty percent (60.4%) said mobile laptops posed the greatest threats.

It also took the longest to deploy security updates and patches to mobile laptops. In 27% of the cases, it was reported that it took longer than 10 days to deploy critical patches to laptops.

Not only are mobile devices and the data they carry at constant risk for loss and/or theft, but there is also the ongoing “off network” challenge of having too many traveling portables that continuously log on and off the network, while at the same time trying to keep the network and company data secure. Ensuring that all information technology assets are equipped with active vulnerability management is essential to protecting confidential information.

By properly securing your mobile devices, you can mitigate the risk of device theft and avoid potential damage to the company’s reputation and the costs associated with unintentional disclosure of data.

Incorporating active vulnerability management across your network includes 1. knowing what IT assets are on your network, 2. establishing baselines and policies for those assets, and 3. continuously assessing and monitoring those assets, whether connected or disconnected, to ensure they remain within policy.

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