Known vulnerabilities pose biggest IT security threats

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Credit: Cutcaster

Cyber risk report cites server misconfigurations as the No. 1 vulnerability.


It's often said, "There's nothing new under the sun." And that appears to be the case in the world of cybersecurity where hackers most often exploit known vulnerabilities to gain access to private computer files, according to HP's 2015 Cyber Risk Report. Maintaining strong computer security, the report says, is largely a process of plugging up known holes.

While newer exploits may generate more press, the report found that in 2014 the majority of attacks had exploited common misconfigurations of technologies and known bugs in code written years ago. The report found that 44% of breaches came from vulnerabilities that are two to four years old.

"Many of the biggest security risks are issues we've known about for decades, leaving organizations unnecessarily exposed," said Art Gilliland, senior vice president and general manager of enterprise security products at HP. Gilliland urges organizations to use fundamental security tactics to mitigate risk.

According to the report, server misconfiguration was the number one vulnerability of 2014. Access to files and directories provide attackers with crucial information for additional avenues of attack and to determine if their method of attack was successful.

One thing is for sure: the rate of malware attacks is accelerating. AV-Test, an independent anti-malware testing organization, collected 83 million malware samples in 2013. That number almost doubled in 2014 to 140 million and is expected to break 200 million in 2015.

The key takeaway from the report is that security analysts should devote substantial resources to plugging up known holes while also being conscious of possible new lines of attack as new technologies are put in place. These new technologies are important as hackers increasingly focus on finding holes in point-of-sale (POS) and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies.

The HP report also found successfully secured enterprise environments employ complementary protection technologies. A mentality that assumes a breach will inevitably occur instead of only working to prevent intrusions seems a likely best practice. Successfully secured enterprises use all available tools and do not rely on a single product or service.

Some of the report's tactical recommendations include:

  • Implementing a comprehensive patching strategy to keep all systems up to date
  • Using regular penetration testing and configuration verification to identify potential issues
  • Understanding new lines of potential attack that may be introduced in the installation of new technology
  • Keeping up with the security industry to learn about attacker's tactics

The report concludes the pace of technology advancement is becoming more rapid, and with that comes the challenge of maintaining security and privacy.

While the escalation in cyberattacks seems relentless, organizations can greatly reduce their risk of breach by upgrading equipment, plugging known vulnerabilities, and listening to security pros for new developments. Employing a variety of security measures can help create a highly functioning network that maintains strong privacy and security for individuals and the company.

The opinions expressed in this Blog are those of Michelle Drolet and do not necessarily represent those of the IDG Communications, Inc., its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.

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