Avoiding Common Vulnerability Management Errors CISOs Still Make

LingRaj Patil
January 27, 2023

As the world increasingly becomes digitalized, the risk of cybersecurity bugs and vulnerabilities also continues to rise hand-in-hand. 

Reports have marked 2021 as the record year for the cybersecurity industry - with over 20,142 unique bugs and vulnerabilities recorded - at a surprising 10% spike from the previous year, which has given rise to the catchphrase - “don’t trust anything”.

The “zero trust” cybersecurity model strictly emphasizes continuous, multi-stage verification and discrete authentication and authorization before granting access. 

In a perfect world, growing awareness and measures to manage bugs and vulnerabilities would have wiped out cybercrime. However, despite the efforts, even top-tier security professionals like CISOs often commit common errors. Here are a few.

Common vulnerability management mistakes to avoid 

Failing to acquire executive buy-in

Getting buy-in from senior leadership for security initiatives is one of the biggest pressing concerns for CISOs today. 

Decisions involving security management like scheduling downtime or applying patches require full support from executives. CISOs very often end up compromising on this aspect due to various reasons including strong pushback and lack of time to pursue the cause. But it’s a good investment of time, as a top-down approach will reduce resistance to change and will also pave the way for better compliance measures, policy implementation, etc.

Relying on generic risk prioritization

Generic frameworks do not take into account the unique, ever-evolving nature of cybersecurity risks. Not prioritizing your risks carefully results in a lack of focus on business-critical threats and vulnerabilities, which can end up with you wasting time and resources on the wrong threats. 

It’s imperative to know how big the impact of a threat is going to be on your business and internal systems and prioritize accordingly. 

Insufficient training and knowledge sharing sessions

With the ever-changing landscape of cyber threats, staying up-to-date on the latest information and best practices is the need of the hour. 

That being said, CISOs often fall behind in providing ample and timely cybersecurity training and awareness sessions to their employees. Efficient vulnerability management requires your teams to be skilled in using the appropriate tools, systems, and processes, and usually CISOs tend to underestimate the effort needed for this.

A recent report highlighted that 50% of employees aren’t aware of the consequences of clicking on a phishing link - can you imagine the consequences?

Security isn’t “baked” into the development process

As apps are now being developed faster than ever before, security is often an afterthought that leads to serious, exploitable in-app vulnerabilities. The key to being both agile and efficient is to embed security into the app development process.

And this is not just the developer’s responsibility but that of everyone who is part of the product lifecycle from inception to delivery.

Monitoring isn’t frequent enough 

Insufficient risk monitoring is often one of the biggest mistakes CISOs tend to make. Continuous and frequent monitoring is essential to stay at least one step ahead of malicious actors. 

Since it’s virtually impossible to monitor and prioritize all threats manually, CISOs need to implement automated solutions to keep track of threats and manage your risks. Also, work out a continuous monitoring plan that puts controls and policies in place, identifies risks and responses, etc. for swift action.

Business goals aren’t aligned with security goals

Many CISOs often focus on technical vulnerabilities. 

However, the smarter approach here would be to analyze the overall business impact of vulnerabilities to establish a strong and holistic security posture. Once the security goals are well-aligned with the company’s goals, it becomes easier to understand how certain risks can hamper revenue and look for remediation strategies. 

Lack of visibility into threat surfaces

Top-tier security officers lacking awareness of apps, assets, third-party suppliers, etc. actively running in the organization's cyber infrastructure are losing out. Mainly because of shadow IT, CISOs often perform inaccurate risk assessments. Visibility into threat surfaces usually becomes low due to a lack of collaboration and a mature data and security governance structure. 

Steps to avoid vulnerability management mistakes

Cyber attacks can compromise sensitive data, damage systems, and disrupt operations. In some cases, they can even lead to bankruptcy. Worry not - these following steps can still help you strengthen your organization’s cyber resilience.

Periodic vulnerability assessments

Scheduling automated vulnerability assessments with the help of tools like web application scanners, network scanners, etc. help in avoiding many of the threats that come your way. 

Another step would be to use a WAF to proactively filter out malicious threats like SQL injections. 

Initiate an ASPM program

By automating the evaluation of an organization's security posture, ASPM programs can help identify potential vulnerabilities and exposures before they can be exploited. 

Additionally, these programs also help organizations comply with security standards and regulations and optimize security posture management practices to free up resources for other cybersecurity initiatives.

Incident management framework

IM frameworks help businesses develop and document their procedures for responding to incidents, ensuring that all stakeholders are aware of their roles and responsibilities in incident response. 

The traditional ITIL-based IM framework helped in doing all of that and became a model that many organizations adapted. However, with systems and threats increasing in complexity it’s important to improve upon your existing framework regularly by incorporating incident workflows, instilling ownership and responsibility, etc.

Fostering a security culture

Building and sustaining a security culture from the ground level is crucial for effective cyber risk management. For that, your communication needs to be open and clear. It needs to outline important information like the current state of security, future goals, and the changes needed to reach those goals. Include your employees, talk to them, and make them feel they are part of the new culture you’re building. 

Joining a cybersecurity community

A community is always one of the best support systems you can have to stay up-to-date on the latest cyber threats and vulnerabilities. Like the Purple Book Community. It’s a vast resource of information, a well-connected network of professionals, and a welcoming place where you can get the support you need immediately.

Wrapping it Up

Improving your security posture must be of the highest priority for several reasons. First, it can help avoid costly security breaches. Second, it complies with data security regulations. And third, it can help build trust with your customers, stakeholders, and partners.

The Purple Book Community is here to help.

VP of Marketing, ArmorCode