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February 18, 2014updated 22 Sep 2016 11:08am

Why vulnerability scans give infosec officers nightmares

Ron Gula, Tenable Network Security CEO, says organisations are turning to continuous monitoring to close the gaps left by traditional vulnerability management.

By Duncan Macrae

Traditional vulnerability management solutions are unnecessarily exposing most to security threats that could be mitigated through continuous monitoring (CM), a study has found.

Tenable Network Security, a specialist in real-time vulnerability and threat management, came to the conclusion in its new report, ‘Close the Gaps Left by Traditional Vulnerability Management Through Continuous Monitoring’, conducted by Forrester Consulting.

CM, the roots of which lie with the US government, addresses many of the challenges faced by traditional vulnerability management solutions and offers CISOs and security leaders across sectors a near real-time view into the security posture of their respective institutions.

The survey found that organisations that implemented continuous monitoring are more than twice as likely to be satisfied with their vulnerability management approach compared to those who use periodic scanning. Additionally, Forrester asked the 45% of respondents who had adopted CM to explain the benefits.

They said that continuous monitoring:

– Benefits all stages of vulnerability management
– Benefits all verticals
– Better equips organisations to deal with a mobile workforce
– Benefits those with a risk focused VM program the most
– Satisfies the CISO more than any other role

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Consumerisation, mobility, and cloud are the hallmarks of the extended enterprise and periodic snapshot vulnerability scanning cannot effectively address the dynamic nature of today’s extended enterprise environments. While this has catapulted vulnerability management as one of the top concerns for organisations – 86% of respondents rate it as their second highest IT security priority for the next 12 months – they remain concerned with effectively lowering their organisation’s risk of compromise. Specifically, organisations struggle to establish effective vulnerability management practices, leaving them exposed to attacks.

The study found that 74% of the surveyed respondents experienced challenges with their overall VM program; 79% claimed they were more likely to miss critical vulnerabilities due to insufficient data to narrow down appropriate endpoints for scanning; 70% scan monthly or less.

Ron Gula, CEO and CTO of Tenable Network Security, said: "The survey shows that although organisations use periodic vulnerability scans, it’s simply not enough.

"In today’s environment of mobile, cloud and BYOD, the extended enterprise poses particular challenges, and organisations are finding it difficult to make traditional vulnerability management work for them. The need for security that covers 100% of assets all the time has never been more apparent than with the recent series of successful breaches."

Maintaining a consistent and effective vulnerability management workflow emerged as a major concern with 77% of respondents having concerns about accurate asset discovery. The explosion of transient endpoints compounds the difficulties of discovering all of an organisation’s assets and greatly increases the likelihood of an effective breach if unknown assets are not identified and assessed properly. Furthermore, 66 percent stated they were not confident in conducting proper vulnerability remediation. Once scans returned the data, they did not feel they had a clear picture of the risks in order to accurately prioritise and take action.

"Periodic vulnerability scans have failed the modern-day CISO," said Gula. "Breaches are still occurring at an alarming rate, and the threat landscape is ever-evolving. The goal for any CISO is to remain ahead of the threat curve, and the only way to do this is through adopting a continuous monitoring platform. This enables users to rapidly deploy patches to shut down these threats in hours not months, so that dangerous windows of opportunity get shut before business-critical data is compromised."


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