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Vulnerability Management for the Real World. Contents:. The Problem. What is Vulnerability Management?. George Kurtz Chief Executive Officer Foundstone . Challenges to Effective VM. Successful Approaches. The Problem. Question. What won’t you see in this presentation?.

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Vulnerability Management for the Real World

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Vulnerability Management for the Real World


  • The Problem

  • What is Vulnerability Management?

George Kurtz

Chief Executive Officer Foundstone

  • Challenges to Effective VM

  • Successful Approaches

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The Problem

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  • What won’t you see in this presentation?

Answer: Another CSI /FBI slide!

We all know the problem, what about a solution!

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VA Is Dead…..

They Just Haven’t Buried The Body!

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1. What causes the damage?

2. How do you prevent the damage? What are your options?


Assets x Vulnerabilities x Threats

You can control vulnerabilities.

95% of breaches target

known vulnerabilities

4. How do you make the best security decisions?

3. How do you successfully deal with vulnerabilities?


Business complexity

Focus on the right assets, right threats, right measures.

Human resources

Financial resources

Organizations are Feeling the Pain

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What is Vulnerability Management?

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What Is Vulnerability Management

A process to determine whether to eliminate, mitigate or tolerate vulnerabilities based upon risk and the cost associated with fixing the vulnerability.

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What Is Vulnerability Management

  • At a high level, the ”intelligent confluence” of…


What assets?


What to fix first?


Fix the problem



  • Component of Risk Management

  • Balance the demands of business goals and processes

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Challenges to Effective VM

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Challenges – Assessment

  • Traditional desktop scanners cannot handle large networks

  • Provide volumes of useless checks

  • Chopping up scans and distributing them is cumbersome

  • Garbage In- Garbage Out (GIGO)– volumes of superfluous data

  • Coverage at all OSI layers is inadequate

  • Time consuming and resource intensive

  • Finding the problem is only half the battle

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Challenges – Analysis

  • Manual and resource intensive process to determine

    • What to fix

    • If you should fix

    • When to fix

  • No correlation between vulnerabilities, threats and assets

  • No way to prioritize what vulnerabilities should be addressed

    • What order

  • Stale data

    • Making decisions on last quarter’s vulnerabilities

  • No credible metrics

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Challenges – Remediation

  • Security resources are often decentralized

  • The security organization often doesn’t own the network or system

  • Multiple groups may own the asset

  • Presenting useful and meaningful information to relevant stakeholders

  • Determining if the fix was actually made

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Cost to ignore vulnerability is greater than the cost to repair

Challenges – Time

Threat Level

Asset Criticality

Risk Threshold









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Goal = compress time from discovery to remediation

Cost to ignore vulnerability is greater than the cost to repair

Cost to ignore vulnerability is greater than the cost to repair



Challenges – Time

Threat Level

Asset Criticality

Risk Threshold







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Goal = compress time from discovery to remediation

Cost to ignore vulnerability is greater than the cost to repair



Challenges – Time

Threat Level

Asset Criticality

Risk Threshold

x 15 new vulnerabilities per day across many assets







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Vulnerability Management Lifecycle

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Vulnerability Management Lifecycle

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Successful Approaches:Implementing An Effective VM Strategy

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Successful Approaches

  • Focus on four key areas:

    • Prioritize Assets

    • Determine Risk Level (assets, threats, vulnerabilities)

    • Remediate Vulnerabilities

    • Measure

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Any function, task, capability, equipment or information that has value to the organization or supports the ability of the organization to conduct business

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Any person, circumstance or event that has the potential to cause damage to an organizational asset or business function

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Any flaw in the design, implementation or administration of a system that provides a mechanism for a threat to exploit the weakness of a system or process

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Prioritize Assets

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Asset Prioritization

  • Identify assets by:

    • Networks

      • Logical groupings of devices

      • Connectivity - None, LAN, broadband, wireless

    • Network Devices

      • Wireless access points, routers, switches

    • Operating System

      • Windows, Unix

    • Applications

      • IIS, Apache, SQL Server

    • Versions

      • IIS 5.0, Apache 1.3.12, SQL Server V.7

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Asset Prioritization

  • Network-based discovery

    • Known and “unknown” devices

    • Determine network-based applications

    • Excellent scalability

  • Agent-based discovery

    • In-depth review of the applications and patch levels

    • Deployment disadvantages

  • Network- and agent-based discovery techniques are optimal

    • Agents - Cover what you already know in great detail

    • Network - Identify rogue or new devices

  • Frequency

    • Continuous, daily, weekly

    • Depends on the asset

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Correlate Threats

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Correlate Threats

  • Not all threat and vulnerability data have equal priority

  • Primary goal is to rapidly protect your most critical assets

  • Identify threats

    • Worms

    • Exploits

    • Wide-scale attacks

    • New vulnerabilities

  • Correlate with your most critical assets

  • Result = Prioritization of vulnerabilities within your environment

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Determine Risk Level

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Risk Calculation

  • The Union of:

    • Vulnerabilities

    • Assets

    • Threats

  • Based upon the criticality of VAT

  • Focus your resources on the true risk

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Remediation / Resolution

  • Perfection is unrealistic (zero vulnerabilities)

    • Think credit card fraud – will the banks ever eliminate credit card fraud?

  • You have limited resources to address issues

  • The question becomes:

    • Do I address or not?

  • Factor in the business impact costs + remediation costs

    • If the risk outweighs the cost – eliminate or mitigate the vulnerability!

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Remediation / Resolution

  • Apply the Pareto Principle – the 80/20 rule

    • Focus on the vital few not the trivial many

    • 80% of your risk can be eliminated by addressing 20% of the issues

    • The Risk Union will show you the way

      • Right assets

      • Relevant threats

      • Critical vulnerabilities

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Remediation / Resolution

  • Patch or Mitigate

    • Impact on availability from a bad patch vs. the risk of not patching

    • Patch or mitigate

    • Recommendations:

      • QA security patches 24 hours

      • Determine if there are wide spread problems

      • Implement defense-in-depth

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  • Current state of security metrics

    • You can’t manage what you can’t measure

    • No focus on quantifying “Security”

      • What is my real risk?

    • Only a relative scale of risk, not an absolute

    • Return on Security Investment (ROSI) is extremely difficult to calculate

    • No accountability in security

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  • Future Look:

    • Accountability

    • A universal standard to quantify risk

    • Common nomenclature

    • Dashboard view of risk and vulnerabilities across disparate organizations

    • Technologies that will help answer the questions:

      • Am I secure?

      • Who is accountable and by when?

      • Am I getting better or worse?

      • How am I trending over time?

      • How do I compare to my peers?

      • How do I compare outside my industry?

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  • All assets are not created equally

  • You cannot respond to or even protect against all threats

  • An effective vulnerability management program focuses on Risk

    • Vulnerabilities

    • Assets

    • Threats

  • The hardest step in a 1000 mile journey is the first – start somewhere

  • Strategically manage vulnerabilities using a comprehensive process

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10 Steps to Effective Vulnerability Management

  • Identify all the assets in your purview

  • Create an Asset Criticality Profile (ACP)

  • Determine exposures and vulnerabilities

  • Track relevant threats – realized and unrealized

  • Determine Risk - union of vulnerabilities x assets x threats

  • Take corrective action if risk > cost to eliminate or mitigate

  • Create meaningful metrics and hold people accountable

  • Identify and address compliance gaps

  • Implement an automated vulnerability management system

  • Convince someone with a budget that vulnerability management is important

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Don’t Spend Another Dime On Security Until You Understand How To….

Protect The Right Assets

From The Right Threats

With The Right Measures

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Contact Information

George Kurtz


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Submit your questions to George

by clicking on the Ask a Question link

on the lower left corner of the screen.

George’s answers will be sent to you by e-mail.

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Thank you

Thank you for participating in this on-demand webcast. If you have suggestions for future webcasts, e-mail the editor at

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