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CIS Control 4

Continuous Vulnerability Assessment and Remediation

Key Principle:

Continuously acquire, assess, and take action on new information in order to identify vulnerabilities, remediate, and minimize the window of opportunity for attackers.

Why is this CIS Control critical?

Cyber defenders must operate in a constant stream of new information: software updates, patches, security advisories, threat bulletins, etc. Understanding and managing vulnerabilities has become a continuous activity, requiring significant time, attention, and resources.

Attackers have access to the same information and can take advantage of gaps between the appearance of new knowledge and remediation. For example, when researchers report new vulnerabilities, a race starts among all parties, including: attackers (to “weaponize”, deploy an attack, exploit); vendors (to develop, deploy patches or signatures and updates), and defenders (to assess risk, regression-test patches, install).

Organizations that do not scan for vulnerabilities and proactively address discovered flaws face a significant likelihood of having their computer systems compromised. Defenders face particular challenges in scaling remediation across an entire enterprise, and prioritizing actions with conflicting priorities, and sometimes-uncertain side effects.

Main Points:
  • Run automated vulnerability scanning tools against all systems on the network on a weekly or more frequent basis and deliver prioritized lists of the most critical vulnerabilities to each responsible system administrator along with risk scores that compare the effectiveness of system administrators and departments in reducing risk. Use a SCAP-validated vulnerability scanner that looks for both code-based vulnerabilities (such as those described by Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures entries) and configuration-based vulnerabilities (as enumerated by the Common Configuration Enumeration Project).
  • Correlate event logs with information from vulnerability scans to fulfill two goals. First, personnel should verify that the activity of the regular vulnerability scanning tools is itself logged. Second, personnel should be able to correlate attack detection events with prior vulnerability scanning results to determine whether the given exploit was used against a target known to be vulnerable.

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Developed, validated and prioritized by a volunteer community of cybersecurity experts.