Looking Forward: The Future of Exposure Management

Part Three of Three: Exposure Management that Drives Tangible Cyber Risk Reduction Outcomes

As we’ve seen in the previous installments of this blog series, exposure management is how we detect, prioritize, and fix the vulnerabilities that put our assets and operations at risk. It’s not just about scanning and patching but also understanding the importance of our assets, the context of vulnerabilities in relation to our business, and the intelligence and actions of cyber adversaries. Exposure management helps us shrink attack surfaces, lower cyber risk, and improve overall security posture.

In part three of this series, we’ll look at the future of exposure management and what steps you can take to ensure that your organization can achieve tangible cyber risk reduction outcomes against whatever threatens your environment. We will discuss the latest trends in effective exposure management, how to track program success, and what makes a good managed service.

Did you miss our earlier posts in this series? Catch up with Part One and Part Two.

Effective Exposure Management Starts with Understanding Risk

Preventing attacks from known threats is challenging enough. What about all the unknowns? New vulnerabilities are discovered constantly. Old vulnerabilities become subject to new exploits. And then there is the rapid advancement of technology used by threat actors and hacking groups to advance their tactics and accelerate their operations. Hacking-as-a-Service, SaaS-based exploitation kits, AI-powered deep fakes, and more make the hackers’ jobs easier, and ours increasingly harder.

Forward-thinking Risk Management is key to preventing and mitigating the impact of cybersecurity threats before they can cause or damage to your organization. No matter what hackers dream up next, you always have one distinct advantage: You know your environment better than your adversary. Taking a risk-based approach to vulnerability management means contextualizing vulnerabilities by the potential risk they pose to your business, and then prioritizing actions so that you actively reduce risk. By approaching vulnerabilities from a risk-based standpoint, you reduce the potential for exposure of your most critical assets, thereby reducing your risk of exploitation.

Data Consolidation is Key

Most organizations use many security tools, each providing key capabilities. In fact, it is considered best practice to create a multi-layered security stack that includes best-in-class tools from a variety of vendors. The problem with this approach is the multiple dashboards that come with a full-fledged security stack. Relying on multiple dashboards greatly increases the time it takes to analyze potential issues and manage exposures with any sort of confidence.

It’s no surprise, then, that one of the biggest trends in cybersecurity is the consolidation, aggregation, and normalization of data and processes across the security stack. This alignment of data and processes reduces confusion, accelerates decision-making, and improves security outcomes. Here are some of the ways you can integrate security data and insights—many of which you may already have—so you can achieve more comprehensive and effective exposure management:

  • Combining complementary technologies: By aggregating, normalizing, and automatically analyzing data and insights from vulnerability scanners, asset visibility tools, and threat intelligence feeds, you get a more holistic and accurate understanding of your exposure risk. This allows you to implement more effective and efficient controls and countermeasures.
  • Vendor/dashboard consolidation: With a platform that aggregates data and findings across the security stack and provides a centralized dashboard, you’ll get a single, actionable view that eliminates lengthy analysis cycles. This allows you to quickly see issues, prioritize your next steps, respond faster, and proactively improve your security posture. Platforms for dashboard consolidation take advantage of the synergies and integrations between different tools and vendors and eliminate the gaps and overlaps so that you can make sound, data-driven decisions.
  • Aligning processes: With the introduction of the Govern pillar in the National Institute for Security and Technology Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF) 2.0, it’s becoming increasingly clear how process plays a critical role in all aspects of cybersecurity, including exposure management. By aligning exposure management processes with  Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance (GRC), incident response, and business continuity, you can ensure that your exposure management efforts are aligned with your business objectives and priorities. You’ll want to ensure that these teams are included in regular cyber risk reviews so that they understand what is working and where your organization needs to improve.

Indicators of Exposure Management Success

When an exposure management program is doing its job, there is often little to show. One of the challenges, then, is how to prove its value to stakeholders, including management, the board, auditors, and regulators, all of whom lack visibility into the continuous process of exposure management that requires ongoing investment and improvement. How can we show that our exposure management efforts are paying off and helping us achieve our cyber security goals?

Some of the key indicators of exposure management success are:

  • Cyber Risk Scores: These metrics tell how exposed the organization is to cyber risk based on vulnerability data, asset criticality, and threat intelligence. Continually measuring cyber risk scores and trends can help communicate improvements over time.
  • Peer Benchmarking: By comparing current and target security posture measurements with industry peers, you can demonstrate your security program’s strengths and weaknesses based on industry norms.
  • Vulnerability Remediation Rate: This metric shows how fast and effectively you are fixing vulnerabilities, especially the ones that pose the highest risk. It helps you evaluate and improve your remediation processes and capabilities and demonstrates your commitment to exposure reduction.
  • Risk Reduction: This is a metric that tells you how much risk you are reducing by fixing vulnerabilities, considering the likelihood and impact of potential exploits. It helps justify and optimize exposure management investments and resources and aligns them with risk appetite and tolerance.

Vetting Your Vulnerability Management Service

Vulnerability Scanning is hard enough on its own, with the amount of data and alerts that get produced. As we look toward the future and to ever-increasing numbers of vulnerabilities, exposure management will only get more complex. Today’s operating environments are massive and ever-changing, resources and skills are limited, value and impact are hard to measure and communicate, and budgets are leaner than ever. None of those challenges are going away any time soon. That’s why many organizations choose to work with a managed service provider that can offer turnkey vulnerability scanning and exposure management services, expertise, and assured delivery.

However, not every managed service is the same. When looking for a managed service for vulnerability scanning and exposure management, keep in mind these critical must-haves:

  • A firm understanding of your unique environment, with risk-aware asset inventories and a team that understands what our organization considers critical.
  • A complete and ongoing view of vulnerabilities across the entire IT estate, including cloud, on-premises, and hybrid environments, as well as web applications, containers, and IoT devices.
  • The on-time delivery of sorted and actionable lists of the most critical vulnerabilities that need to be fixed, based on your asset inventory, business context, active threat intelligence, and industry benchmarks.
  • A dedicated team of experts who can help identify the best course of action for vulnerability remediation, patch management, and configuration management, along with expert support analysts who can provide guidance and best practices for exposure management.
  • A dashboard and reporting system that helps track and communicate exposure management performance, progress, and value, using metrics such as cyber risk score, remediation rate, and risk reduction.

Introducing the Critical Start Vulnerability Management Service

Critical Start’s Vulnerability Management Service (VMS) delivers predictable vulnerability scanning, expert contextual analysis, and prescriptive patch lists for a cycle of continuous risk reduction. With VMS, you will be able to make sound, data-driven remediation decisions so you can ensure that your organization achieves tangible cyber risk reduction outcomes against whatever threatens your environment now and into the future.

Learn more or contact and expert to see a demo.

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