Enterprise software applications are sophisticated, incorporating various technologies and featuring complex integrations with third-party software applications and systems. Any security vulnerability in software components can bring severe consequences to the organization. That’s why it is critical to effectively manage application vulnerabilities.
This article explores application vulnerability management, discussing its importance and best practices. We’ll also look at the top tools you can leverage to automate application vulnerability management and what benefits organizations can get by leveraging them.
What is application vulnerability management?
Application vulnerability management refers to the processes of mitigating security vulnerabilities in software applications. There are different types of vulnerabilities.
Like the overarching vulnerability management process, app vulnerability management is aimed at helping organizations proactively identify and remediate vulnerabilities to reduce the risk of exploitation by cyberattackers and protect sensitive and critical data and systems.
Application vulnerability management involves several tasks, such as:
- Continuously monitoring production environments for vulnerabilities.
- Conducting risk assessments.
- Prioritizing issues.
- Implementing remediation measures like patching and hardening for issue mitigation.
Many software tools are available for organizations to automate those tasks and quickly identify and remediate the highest-impact vulnerabilities. (We’ll get into some common tools at the end of this article.)
Application vulnerability management is critical for business
The increased usage of different software architectures, cloud environments, and integrations with third-party systems has significantly heightened the risks of security vulnerabilities in software applications.
Any disruptions to enterprise applications resulting from exploited vulnerabilities can lead to application downtimes. Also, the costs related to data breaches, reputation harm or legal penalties? That’s substantial.
Looking from a bird’s eye view, there’s another angle to consider: many organizations are bound by strict data protection and cybersecurity regulations. Keeping the application exposed to such vulnerabilities can result in significant financial penalties imposed by regulatory authorities. Thus, effective vulnerability management is necessary to meet these compliance obligations and avoid potential penalties.
Best practices: Application vulnerability management
Effective application vulnerability management involves implementing and performing several key tasks. The following are the best practices you can follow for effective application vulnerability management.
Employing continuous monitoring & scanning tools
Continuous monitoring and scanning enable organizations to detect vulnerabilities as soon as they emerge. Security teams can monitor network traffic and application logs to identify suspicious activities and respond promptly to security incidents. These tools can scan the application environment and analyze the application code, configurations, and dependencies to identify security weaknesses.
Plus, with the increasing use of containerized applications, such tools can also scan and identify vulnerabilities in containerized applications.
Continuous monitoring assists in identifying misconfigurations — open ports and weak access controls — and addresses them to mitigate the risks of exploitation. This early detection enables proactive measures, including patching, configuration changes, and security controls, to minimize the risks of cyberattacks.
Establishing an Incident Response Plan
Remediation is a key step in application vulnerability management. Hence, organizations must establish a comprehensive incident response plan to address issues related to application vulnerabilities.
Create a well-defined incident response plan that outlines the appropriate actions to take in response to various security incidents. With a well-defined incident response plan, organizations can:
- Minimize the impact of application vulnerabilities and security incidents
- Mitigate potential exploits by promptly identifying and resolving vulnerabilities, thereby reducing the likelihood of successful attack execution.
Integrating security at the earliest stages of development
Incorporating security into the early stages of application development requires integrating vulnerability testing into the CI/CD pipeline. By considering security from the start, developers can proactively detect and resolve potential vulnerabilities during the development phase.
It also includes performing threat modeling to identify the sections of the application that handle sensitive information. This allows developers to give those areas extra attention.
This approach assists developers in implementing secure coding practices and adhering to security guidelines, ultimately minimizing the risk of introducing vulnerabilities to production environments.
Keeping software updated
As enterprise applications rely heavily on third-party libraries and tools, it is important to stay up-to-date and patch your applications as soon as such updates are available. Such software updates can include fixes for security-related issues and known vulnerabilities. Those vulnerabilities allow attackers to access systems and compromise sensitive data.
Organizations can mitigate these vulnerabilities by regularly updating software and installing the latest security patches.
Training & educating employees and partners
Providing employees with adequate education and training allows them to familiarize themselves with prevalent coding vulnerabilities and develop applications with those vulnerabilities in mind. For instance, when developers possess a proper understanding of vulnerabilities such as cross-site scripting (XSS), SQL injection, and others, they can take proactive measures to address security concerns during the development process.
Quality engineers also can design and execute tests targeting application vulnerabilities. This helps identify vulnerabilities early in the software development life cycle, allowing for timely remediation.
Employees can stay updated on emerging threats, new attack techniques and vulnerabilities relevant to the organization's applications. By continuously learning and expanding their knowledge, they can better understand the risks associated with various applications and implement appropriate security measures.
Leveraging Threat Intelligence
Threat Intelligence provides up-to-date and relevant information about potential risks and helps prioritize vulnerabilities. This enables organizations in two key ways:
- You can proactively apply patches to mitigate threats based on the global threat landscape.
- You can prioritize and address the most critical vulnerabilities first, reducing the overall risk exposure.
Also, Threat Intelligence helps organizations understand cybercriminals' tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs). By understanding the TTPs, organizations can implement appropriate security measures to safeguard their applications. This knowledge enables proactive defense strategies.
How application vulnerability management benefits organizations
Improve the organizations’ overall security posture
Application vulnerability management involves regular monitoring and scanning to identify potential vulnerabilities. Through this regular monitoring and scanning, organizations can proactively identify and address application security weaknesses before attackers can exploit them. This helps organizations to:
- Keep systems up-to-date and protected against known security flaws.
- Reduce the risk of data breaches.
Save costs associated with security vulnerabilities
Security breaches are costly. The reputational damages it brings to the organization can be even worse. With proper application vulnerability management, organizations can avoid such costly damages and legal penalties enforced by regulators for breaching regulatory requirements.
Improve customer satisfaction
When customers know that organizations use application vulnerability management as part of their security strategies, they will be more confident in using the applications because they are confident that their data are safely handled and have low chances of security breaches. Organizations can demonstrate that they take application security seriously and are committed to protecting customer data and privacy.
Meet regulatory compliance standards
Many organizations must meet certain cybersecurity and privacy regulations related to enterprise applications. Following application vulnerability management, best practice organizations meet these requirements and demonstrate compliance.
Tools & software for application vulnerability management
The following are some top vulnerability management tools that allow organizations to automate and speed up vulnerability management tasks.
Splunk SOAR (Formerly known as Splunk Phantom)
Splunk Phantom is a security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) tool that comprehensively manages the end-to-end vulnerability management process. Easily navigated within a single platform, Splunk SOAR’s capabilities include:
- Automating vulnerability prioritization
- Generating remediation tickets
- Monitoring the remediation progress
Security teams can effectively perform application vulnerability management tasks — and empower your entire SOC — by leveraging Splunk SOAR.
Qualys Cloud Platform
The Qualys Cloud Platform is a cloud-based security solution offering various security modules, including support for application vulnerability management. The platform enables organizations to scan their applications to identify and prioritize vulnerabilities. It provides detailed reports, real-time alerts, and remediation guidance to address identified security flaws.
Automox is a cloud-native cybersecurity platform that provides vulnerability management solutions for organizations. It primarily focuses on patching vulnerabilities in third-party software that pose a significant risk to the software applications.
CrowStrike offers a cloud-native platform called CrowdStrike Falcon Spotlight, providing scan-less vulnerability assessment technology to provide continuous and automated vulnerability management that instantly prioritizes risks.
While CrowdStrike is not specifically tailored for vulnerability management, it includes features such as vulnerability assessment and patch management as part of its broader endpoint security capabilities.
Datadog’s application vulnerability management platform specifically focuses on third-party software vulnerabilities. It offers ongoing monitoring, specifically targeting vulnerabilities present in the open-source libraries modern applications depend on.
Digital Defense offers Frontline Vulnerability Manager, a cutting-edge SaaS vulnerability management solution. Their proprietary scanning technology powers it and enables thorough security assessments, facilitating streamlined prioritization and tracking of results. By leveraging Frontline VM, organizations can optimize their remediation planning and management, enhancing efficiency and effectiveness.
This tool does not specifically focus on application vulnerabilities. Instead, it lets organizations uncover potential vulnerabilities throughout all their endpoints and on-site infrastructure. It helps prioritize identified risks and offers clear instructions to IT, security, and development teams to streamline the resolution process
Application vulnerability management is a critical process every organization that deals with software applications must leverage. It involves best practices like continuous monitoring and scanning of software applications for vulnerabilities, maintaining a proper incident response plan, patching software regularly, providing employee training and education, and many more tasks. It helps organizations to avoid costly data breaches, improve their overall security posture, enhance customer satisfaction, and meet regulatory compliance requirements.
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