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  • Vishal Masih

The Importance of Vulnerability Management: Insights from the 2024 Verizon DBIR


A hacker opening a heavily bolted and secure door with a key
Cyber defenses are moot if your software has easily exploitable vulnerabilities

In the dynamic landscape of cybersecurity, vulnerability management stands as a cornerstone of organizational defense strategies. The Verizon 2024 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) provides critical insights into the evolving threats and emphasizes the urgent need for robust vulnerability management practices. This blog explores the importance of vulnerability management, the ease of getting started, and why regular patch management is crucial for organizations today.


The use of vulnerabilities as an initial breach entry point increased 180% in 2023 compared with 2022.

The Numbers

The 2024 DBIR highlights a concerning trend: an increase in the exploitation of vulnerabilities by threat actors, particularly in third-party software. This trend underscores the necessity for organizations to adopt comprehensive vulnerability management programs.

  • The use of vulnerabilities as an initial breach entry point increased 180% in 2023 compared with 2022.

  • Vulnerability exploitation of web applications specifically represented roughly 20% of data breaches.

  • VPN vector exploitation is expected to be a primary target in 2025.

  • Vulnerability exploitation made up roughly 90% of supply chain interconnection breaches, and supply chain breaches constituted 15% of breaches this year, a 68% jump compared with last year.


The report notes that it takes, on average, 55 days to remediate 50% of critical vulnerabilities once patches are available. This delay provides ample opportunity for attackers to exploit these weaknesses.


Getting Started with Vulnerability Management

Vulnerability management is a proactive process aimed at identifying, evaluating, treating, and reporting on security vulnerabilities in systems and software. The primary goal is to mitigate potential threats before they can be exploited by malicious actors.


One of the misconceptions about vulnerability management is that it is a complex and resource-intensive process. In reality, organizations can take several straightforward steps to establish an effective vulnerability management program:

  1. Inventory and Assessment: Begin by creating an inventory of all IT assets, including hardware, software, and network components. There are tools out there like Lansweeper (disclaimer: we are a partner) that can help you identify and track all IT assets you have on your network.

  2. Prioritization: Not all vulnerabilities are created equal. Use risk-based prioritization to focus on vulnerabilities that pose the greatest threat to your organization. The DBIR emphasizes the importance of addressing vulnerabilities listed in the CISA Known Exploited Vulnerabilities Catalog.

  3. Patch Management: Implement a systematic patch management process. Regularly apply patches and updates to all software and systems. The report indicates that timely patching can significantly reduce the window of opportunity for attackers.

  4. Automated Tools: Leverage automated vulnerability scanning tools to continuously monitor your environment for new vulnerabilities. These vulnerability scanning tools can be agent based (installed on the device) or agent less (acting as a network sensor). Some of these tools have (like our AgileBlue EDR agent) have patch management built in. There are many tools out there like that can help in quickly identifying and mitigating threats. If you need any guidance here, please feel free to get in touch.

  5. Training and Awareness: Ensure that your IT staff is trained in vulnerability management best practices. Regular training and awareness programs can help in maintaining a vigilant security posture. Almost all vulnerability scanning, vulnerability management and patch management vendors have a adequate training resources available online. For awareness, we recommend organizations sign up the CISA vulnerability updates here.


The Risks of Inadequate Vulnerability Management

Neglecting vulnerability management can have severe consequences. The DBIR provides several examples of breaches resulting from unpatched vulnerabilities and poorly managed systems. For instance, the exploitation of the MOVEit vulnerability resulted in breaches affecting thousands of organizations globally.

Patterns of Exploitation

The report identifies several patterns in vulnerability exploitation. Attackers often target widely used software and systems, exploiting known vulnerabilities before patches can be applied. This pattern underscores the need for organizations to stay ahead of threats by adopting proactive vulnerability management practices.

55 days to remediate 50% of critical vulnerabilities once patches are available.

The Importance of the Software Supply Chain

The software supply chain is another critical area highlighted in the DBIR. As organizations increasingly rely on third-party software, the risk of vulnerabilities in these external systems grows. Ensuring that third-party vendors adhere to stringent security standards and promptly apply patches is essential to maintaining a secure supply chain. For starters, sign up for security updates from your vendors and third-party sources like CISA. Just google "vulnerability updates free" and sign up.

Vulnerability exploitation made up roughly 90% of supply chain interconnection breaches.

The Critical Role of Patch Management

Patch management is an integral part of vulnerability management. It involves the timely application of patches to fix security vulnerabilities in software and systems. The 2024 DBIR underscores the critical importance of regular patch management for several reasons:

  1. Mitigating Exploitation Risks: Threat actors are increasingly exploiting zero-day vulnerabilities—those that are unknown to the software vendor and have no available patch. Regular patching helps close these security gaps before they can be exploited .

  2. Reducing Attack Surface: By regularly updating software and systems, organizations can significantly reduce their attack surface. The DBIR report shows that the time from the publication of a vulnerability to the first scan by threat actors is often very short, highlighting the need for prompt patching .

  3. Compliance Requirements: Many regulatory frameworks mandate regular patching as part of their compliance requirements. Adhering to these regulations helps avoid legal penalties and enhances overall security posture.

For starters, sign up for security updates from your vendors and third-party sources like CISA, Microsoft etc. Just google "vulnerability updates free" and sign up.

Conclusion

The 2024 Verizon DBIR makes it clear that vulnerability management is not just a best practice but a critical necessity in today's threat landscape. By implementing effective vulnerability and patch management programs, organizations can significantly reduce their risk of being breached. The ease of getting started with vulnerability management and the availability of automated tools make it accessible for organizations of all sizes. As threat actors continue to exploit vulnerabilities in third-party software, maintaining a robust vulnerability management program is more important than ever.


Investing in vulnerability management is an investment in the security and resilience of your organization. By staying vigilant and proactive, you can protect your assets, data, and reputation from the ever-evolving threat landscape.

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