Tag Archives: patch

Guinea Pig and Vulnerability Management products

IMHO, security vendors use the term “Vulnerability Management” extremely inaccurate. Like a guinea pig, which is not a pig and is not related to Guinea, the current Vulnerability Management products are not about the actual (practically exploitable) vulnerabilities and not really about the management.

Guinea Pig and Vulnerability Management

Vulnerability should mean something solid and reliable, something that can be practically used by a malicious attacker or penetration tester.

When (so-called) Vulnerability Management vendors start working with indirect information from third-party about potential vulnerabilities in the software, that were possibly exploited by someone in some unknown conditions, or simply distance from responsibility: “we just provide information from the software vendor; software vendor knows better about the vulnerabilities in his own products”, it’s all falling into to the area of fortune telling and counting angels on the head of a pin.

Hardcore process of identifying weaknesses that real-life attackers can use moves to a boring compliance. For example, as PCI DSS requires, there should be no vulnerabilities above medium level (CVSS Base score > 4). At the same time, no one cares how fair this assessment of criticality is or how real these vulnerabilities are. All the analytics build on such formal data loses its sharpness and practical value.

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Psychological Aspects of Vulnerability Remediation

In my opinion, Remediation is the most difficult part of Vulnerability Management process. If you know the assets in your organization and can assess them, you will sooner or later produce a good enough flow of critical vulnerabilities. But what the point, if the IT team will not fix them?

Kübler-Ross model and Tsunami of Vulnerability Tasks

Kübler-Ross model and Tsunami of Vulnerability Remediation Tasks

Just think about it. The only thing that your colleagues from  IT team see is an unexpected  tsunami of the patching tasks. They most likely don’t understand WHY they should do it. They most likely don’t know about the concepts of Attack Surface minimization and Attack Cost maximization. From their point of view it’s just some stupid requirements from InfoSec team imposed with only one goal – to make their life miserable.

So, they may think that denial and pushing back can solve all their problems. And, frankly, this may work. There are countless ways to sabotage Vulnerability Remediation. Most main and common are the following:

  • I don’t understand how to patch this.
  • I already patched this, there should be a false positive in the scanner.
  • Why should we patch this? The vulnerability is not exploitable. Or it is exploitable in theory, but not exploitable in our particular infrastructure. Or this server is not critical and, even if it will be compromised, there won’t be a huge impact. So, we will not patch it.

In each individual case Vulnerability Analyst can describe and proof his point, but doing this for each vulnerability will require insane amount of time and efforts and will paralyze the work. It is basically the Italian strike or work-to-rule.

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