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Improving Patch and Vulnerability Management with Proactive Security Analysis

Improving Patch and Vulnerability Management with Proactive Security Analysis

Vulnerability management is the continuous process of identifying and addressing vulnerabilities in an organization’s IT infrastructure, while patch management is the process of accessing, testing, and installing patches that fix bugs or address known security vulnerabilities in software applications.

Vulnerability management and patch management are crucial SecOps processes that protect IT assets against cyber threats and prevent unauthorized access to secure systems. Effectiveness in patch management and vulnerability management depends on a proactive approach to cybersecurity where enterprise SecOps teams take steps to anticipate and prevent cyber attacks before they happen.

This blog will explore the role of patch and vulnerability management in organizational cybersecurity, the key aspects of proactive cybersecurity, and how proactive security analysis helps improve the outcomes of vulnerability and patch management activities.


Improving Patch and Vulnerability Management


Patch Management vs. Vulnerability Management: What’s the Difference?

Vulnerability management and patch management are important aspects of organizational cybersecurity that differ in their focus, activities, and core objectives.

Vulnerability management is the continuous process of identifying, assessing, prioritizing, managing, and remediating security vulnerabilities across an organization’s IT infrastructure.

The goal of vulnerability management is to minimize the organization’s attack surface and mitigate the risk of a successful cyber attack by proactively identifying and addressing vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by digital adversaries.

Vulnerability management involves:

  1. Monitoring or scanning the network for applications or other resources with known vulnerabilities.
  2. Identification of vulnerabilities via threat intelligence, penetration testing, and vulnerability scanning tools.
  3. Risk Assessment of identified vulnerabilities to evaluate the severity and potential impact of a successful attack against an identified vulnerability.
  4. Prioritization of vulnerabilities to remediate based on their risk profiles.
  5. Remediation of vulnerabilities by implementing patches, configuration changes, or compensating controls.
  6. Reporting on the security status of network and IT assets with respect to vulnerability management.

Patch management is the continuous process of obtaining, testing, installing, and managing patches for software applications and systems.

The goal of patch management is to enhance the security and functioning of software applications and IT assets by applying patches that address known bugs, vulnerabilities, and/or performance issues.

Patch management involves:

  1. Identification of newly available patches through vendor announcements, automatic update systems, patch management tools, etc.
  2. Acquisition of new software patches and upgrades from reputable sources.
  3. Testing new software patches to ensure they address vulnerabilities without disrupting existing systems.
  4. Deploying patches to production systems.
  5. Verification that patches have been applied and systems are functioning correctly.
  6. Reporting on the status of patch management activities.


What is Proactive Security Analysis?

Proactive security analysis is the continuous process of analyzing an organization’s security posture in various ways to anticipate cyber threats and mitigate or patch vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by cyber attackers.

In contrast, reactive security analysis focuses on analyzing security incidents after they occur. While proactive security measures focus on the identification and prevention of cyber threats, a reactive approach focuses on the containment or eradication of a detected threat from the organization’s IT systems and forensic or root cause analysis to investigate the source of an attack.


Check out the blog: 5 Advanced DevSecOps Techniques to Try in 2023.


7 Components of Proactive Security Analysis

Proactive security analysis encompasses a range of security measures that help organizations protect themselves from cyber attacks before they happen. Below, we highlight 8 proactive security analysis techniques used by SecOps teams to identify vulnerabilities, anticipate cyber threats, and safeguard the organization’s security posture.


1. Continuous Monitoring

Continuous monitoring involves collecting and aggregating access logs and other types of security data from throughout an organization’s IT infrastructure, then analyzing those logs to detect unusual or suspicious activity that could indicate a security incident.

SecOps teams can use SIEM logging, or Intrusion Detection/Prevention Systems (IDS/IDPs) to monitor networks and generate automated alerts when anomalies or potential threats are detected.

This ongoing process helps SecOps teams maintain visibility of the organization’s security posture and detect potential threats before they can escalate.


2. Threat Intelligence

Threat intelligence is the continuous process of gathering information about new and emerging cybersecurity threats from a variety of sources, including public and private threat feeds, industry reports, dark web monitoring, and other sources.

SecOps teams can analyze data from threat intelligence feeds to identify new cybersecurity trends, patterns, and Indicators of Compromise (IoCs), anticipate which new or emerging threats might be used to target their organizations, and produce actionable insights that inform updates to the organization’s security measures and defenses.


3. Threat Hunting

Proactive threat hunting is an activity where SecOps teams manually investigate networks and systems for signs of threat activity instead of waiting for a security monitoring or SIEM tool to automatically detect the threat and trigger an alert.

Threat hunters develop hypotheses about potential threats based on the latest threat intelligence, observed anomalies in enterprise networks or systems, and/or known attack vectors that digital adversaries like to exploit. From there, threat hunters will use a combination of manual and automated threat hunting tools to detect and identify cyber threats that may have bypassed their automated defense systems.


4. Vulnerability Scanning

Vulnerability scanning is a process where SecOps teams use special automated tools to scan an organization’s network, systems, and applications for known vulnerabilities that could potentially be exploited by a cyber attacker. SecOps teams run vulnerability scans on a regular basis to maintain visibility and oversight of any vulnerabilities that could impact the organization’s security posture.

In today’s fragmented security environment, vulnerability scanning allows SecOps teams to hone in on the most critical vulnerabilities and remediate them before they can be exploited by attackers to steal data or gain unauthorized access to a secure network.


5. Security Audits

A security audit is a comprehensive review of an organization’s security policies, procedures, controls, and practices. For SecOps teams, conducting a security audit helps ensure compliance with data privacy and security regulations, identify gaps or areas for improvement in the organization’s security posture, and develop actionable recommendations for shoring up defensive measures.


6. Penetration Testing

Penetration testing is a proactive security strategy where SecOps teams simulate a real cyber attack and attempt to gain unauthorized access to the organization’s IT systems by identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities in the network. Penetration tests are conducted in a controlled environment to avoid disrupting the organization’s actual production systems, but they can still yield valuable insight into vulnerabilities and other weaknesses that could be exploited in a cyber attack.


7. Incident Response Planning

Incident response planning is a proactive security technique where SecOps teams develop detailed plans for responding to security incidents. Some SecOps teams develop a playbook of incident response plans to cover multiple scenarios (e.g. malware infection, insider threat, data breach, etc.). Training or drilling the incident response plan helps the SecOps team respond quickly and decisively to remediate an identified threat before it causes damage to critical systems.


5 Proactive Security Engineering Routines for Cloud-Native Teams. Check out the blog!


How Does Proactive Security Analysis Improve Vulnerability and Patch Management?


1. Identify New and Emerging Vulnerabilities

Identifying new and emerging vulnerabilities that could impact the organization’s cybersecurity infrastructure is a key component of vulnerability management. Continuous monitoring and vulnerability scanning tools do much of the heavy lifting here, but enterprise SecOps teams can also become aware of new and emerging vulnerabilities by proactively analyzing threat intelligence data from multiple sources, conducting penetration tests, or through an external security audit.


2. Enhance Visibility of Security Risks

Effective vulnerability management depends on an organization maintaining visibility of potential vulnerabilities in its software applications and IT systems - after all, you can’t manage vulnerabilities you don’t know about. Proactive vulnerability scanning allows enterprise SecOps teams to maintain an up-to-date inventory of IT assets under their protection and ensure visibility of security vulnerabilities across the network.


3. Accelerate Risk Assessment

As part of the vulnerability management process, SecOps teams must assess risk for known vulnerabilities by evaluating the likelihood, potential impact, and severity of a successful exploit. Risk assessment is critical for determining how to prioritize patching activities, especially with software vendors releasing record numbers of patches. Insight into the risks associated with a known vulnerability may be discovered using proactive security analysis.

Analyzing threat reports from other organizations or conducting penetration testing can reveal insight into the risks associated with a specific vulnerability. Similarly, proactive threat hunting can help SecOps teams:

  • Discover elusive and long-term cyber threats impacting enterprise IT systems.
  • Identify software or asset vulnerabilities that were exploited by those threats to gain access or move between secured systems without the proper authorization.
  • Understand what the attackers were trying to do and evaluate the potential risks of those vulnerabilities being exploited again.


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Enable Proactive Security Analytics with a Security Data Lake

Vulnerability and patch management are proactive security processes that SecOps teams can use to identify exposure – before cyber attackers exploit them. Both processes can be effectively supported by proactive security analysis techniques that help with vulnerability detection, identification, management, and risk assessment.

With ChaosSearch, enterprise SecOps teams can transform their public cloud storage into a security data lake with unlimited hot data retention. ChaosSearch enables a proactive approach to security analytics, empowering SecOps teams to:

  • Monitor access logs across all applications and systems from one centralized location.
  • Identify suspicious processes and conduct root cause analyses to identify potential vulnerabilities.
  • Monitor inbound traffic sources and patterns
  • Monitor IPs, ports, and endpoint devices on the network
  • Engage in proactive threat hunting using rich historical data to track down elusive APTs
  • Meet data privacy and security compliance requirements

Our new ChaosSearch AI Assistant also lets you proactively search for vulnerabilities in your systems using natural language.


Ready to learn more?

Check out our Solution Brief for SecOps and Threat Hunting to learn more about how ChaosSearch enables scalable log analytics for security operations with no data movement and unlimited data retention.

About the Author, David Bunting

David Bunting is the Director of Demand Generation at ChaosSearch, the cloud data platform simplifying log analysis, cloud-native security, and application insights. Since 2019 David has worked tirelessly to bring ChaosSearch’s revolutionary technology to engineering teams, garnering the company such accolades as the Data Breakthrough Award and Cybersecurity Excellence Award. A veteran of LogMeIn and OutSystems, David has spent 20 years creating revenue growth and developing teams for SaaS and PaaS solutions. More posts by David Bunting