Charles Leaver – Equifax Breach Underlines The Need For Vulnerability Lifecycle Management

Written By Dr Al Hartmann And Presented By Charles Leaver


The following heading hit the news last week on September 7, 2017:

Equifax Inc. today announced a cyber security event possibly impacting roughly 143 million U.S. customers. Lawbreakers made use of a U.S. website application vulnerability to get to particular files. Based upon the business’s investigation, the unauthorized access happened from the middle of May through July 2017.

Lessons from Past Data Breaches

If you like your job, appreciate your role, and dream to maintain it, then do not leave the door open to attackers. A major data breach frequently starts with an un-patched vulnerability that is readily exploitable. And then the inevitable occurs, the cyber criminals are inside your defenses, the crown jewels have actually left the building, the press releases fly, high-priced specialists and external legal counsel rack up billable hours, regulators come down, claims are flung, and you have “some major ‘splainin’ to do”!

We have yet to see if the head splainer in the existing Equifax debacle will endure, as he is still in ‘splainin’ mode, asserting the infiltration began with the exploitation of an application vulnerability.

In such cases the normal rhumba line of resignations is – CISO initially, followed by CIO, followed by CEO, followed by the board of directors shakeup (specifically the audit and business obligation committees). Don’t let this take place to your professional life!

Steps to Take Right Away

There are some commonsense actions to take to prevent the unavoidable breach catastrophe resulting from unpatched vulnerabilities:

Take inventory – Inventory all system and data assets and map your network topology and connected devices and open ports. Know your network, it’s segmentation, what devices are attached, exactly what those devices are running, what vulnerabilities those systems and apps expose, what data assets they gain access to, the level of sensitivity of those assets, what defenses are layered around those assets, and exactly what checks remain in place along all prospective access points.

Improve and get tougher – Carry out best practices recommendations for identity and access management, network division, firewall software and IDS configurations, os and application configurations, database access controls, and data encryption and tokenization, while simplifying and cutting the number and complexity of subsystems throughout your enterprise. Anything too intricate to manage is too complex to secure. Choose configuration solidifying heaven over breach response hell.

Continually monitor and inspect – Periodic audits are needed but inadequate. Continuously monitor, track, and assess all appropriate security events and exposed vulnerabilities – create visibility, event capture, analysis, and archiving of every system and session login, every application launch, every active binary and vulnerability exposure, every script execution, every command provided, every networking contact, every database transaction, and every delicate data access. Any gaps in your security event visibility develop an opponent free-fire zone. Establish essential performance metrics, track them ruthlessly, and drive for ruthless improvement.

Don’t accept functional excuses for insufficient security – There are always secure and effective operational policies, however they might not be pain-free. Not suffering a devastating data breach is long down the organizational discomfort scale from the alternative. Functional expedience or running traditional or misaligned top priorities are not valid excuses for extenuation of bad cyber practices in an escalating danger environment. Lay down the law.