The capabilities offered by business software applications are constantly growing, but unfortunately so too are the number of vulnerabilities.
Once identified by cybercriminals, these vulnerabilities in code can be used to cause disruption and financial losses. Rapid identification and patching is therefore vital.
It’s a problem that gets bigger every year. During 2022, industry research shows there were more than 2000 new vulnerabilities discovered every month, and these were on top of the more than 100,000 discovered during the previous five years.
Much of this challenge can be attributed to the rate of change that is occurring within organisations. Determined to improve productivity and reduce operational costs, many are embracing strategies of digital transformation and deploying new applications at an increasing rate.
Approach to security
Despite being aware of the risks posed by software vulnerabilities, many organisations have not made any changes to their IT security strategies for years. A traditional approach is taken to network and infrastructure monitoring while standard protective measures are deployed.
Some recent high-profile incidents have shown the failings of this strategy. The Log4Shell, Spring4Shell, and Apache Commons attacks revealed how exploiting vulnerabilities can caused widespread and costly problems.
Clearly, a new approach to security management it required. IT teams need the ability to rapidly respond to incidents that exploit vulnerabilities and undertake the steps required to prevent attacks.
Achieving this means teams require a number of important capabilities, both within the skills and experience of staff members and the tools they use to undertake their roles. These capabilities include:
- The capacity for real-time identification: Many security teams are hampered by the fact that their tools need to be updated with details of new threats before their IT environment can be fully scanned. This is far too slow and can result in cybercriminals gaining a foothold before their presence is even detected. Having the capacity to conduct real-time identification is therefore vital.
- Pinpoint accuracy: Tools used by security teams need to be able to detect with great accuracy which applications within an infrastructure are actually vulnerable while also not generating large numbers of false-positive flags. This will ensure the team can focus its efforts on areas that will have the greatest impact for the organisation.
- Automatic prioritisation: Security teams also need the ability to prioritise any enterprise-wide vulnerabilities that are discovered to determine which should be addressed first. This will ensure effort is expended in the areas in which it deliver the most business benefit.
- Efficient data delivery: The ability to provide details of vulnerabilities to both developers and application owners is also key. This will keep them updated on potential risks and allow them to undertake remediation in a timely manner.
Taking a more proactive approach
Traditionally, IT security teams have only been in a position to scan for known vulnerabilities and apply patches to remove the associated risks. However, as the nature of cyberthreats continues to evolve, this approach is no longer sufficient.
The latest generation of security monitoring tools allow teams to proactively block attacks even before they are aware that a specific vulnerability exists. This effectively allows them to respond to even pre zero-day exploits.
Achieving these proactive insights is made possible by being able to actively monitor activity that is occurring within the applications themselves. The tools understand what ‘normal’ activity looks like and are able to identify and report on any activity that falls outside these parameters.
This approach differs from traditional monitoring tools which sit outside applications and observe traffic flowing into and out of them. This approach can miss malicious activity which is taking advantage of a newly discovered vulnerability.
This means that threats can be contained and neutralised even before knowledge of the vulnerabilities they are exploiting even exists. This allows much more rapid response the removal of risk in ways that previously have not been possible.
Software vulnerabilities are going to remain an unfortunate feature of digital life for the foreseeable future. For this reason, having proactive threat identification capabilities that deliver insights into the operation of core business applications will remain vital.