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Security in Context: The BeyondTrust Blog

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Bringing you news and commentary on solutions and strategies for protecting critical IT infrastructure in the context of your business.

The Value of a Zero-Day Vulnerability Assessment Scanner

Posted October 26, 2010    Morey Haber

Let’s assume your business is near perfect. You have a proven and reliable vulnerability management lifecycle in place and identification of vulnerabilities and patch remediation happens like clockwork. Finding lingering threats or missing patches is a rarity and even your endpoint protection solution never fails catching the latest malware. Like I said, a near perfect business for managing security threats should not be susceptible to problems, right ?

In a perfect world, security in itself would not be an issue. Software coding and configuration mistakes would not happen. People would be honest, true to their core, and criminals nonexistent. But today’s world and businesses do not operate in paradise. Thousands of new vulnerabilities are discovered daily and systems fail to install patches correctly every day. In addition, our own business processes that try to accommodate all these variables with strict change controls and regulatory compliance initiatives can still falter.

So our imperfect world, with imperfect software, and imperfect processes needs some glimmer of hope to ward off vulnerabilities…especially the new ones. All modern vulnerability assessment solutions detect publically disclosed vulnerabilities and recommend the proper course for mitigation; however, what happens when these vulnerabilities have no path for mitigation? What happens when the threat can damage the physical world like Stuxnet or steal critical data like Aurora? What would be the value to you of having a vulnerability assessment solution that could identify zero-day vulnerabilities that target your environment?

Knowing that you can identify zero-day threats is a glimmer of hope for staying ahead of the imperfections. Knowing that even a freshly built, fully patched, and hardened system can still have exploitable vulnerabilities reminds us of the day to day imperfections we have to manage.

Finally, consider a stable and mature deployment that has served your business well. It is very likely susceptible to a new threat that traditional patch management just cannot manage, yet due to a zero-day threat. So how do you know what these are and what risk they represent?

Simply put, the value of a zero-day vulnerability assessment scanner is in knowing where the imperfections are that could jeopardize your business before even the most “perfect” processes can implement a remediation. This is how you could be compromised even before patches are available.

Tools like Retina are designed to provide this value.

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