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The Value of Attack and Malware Data in Prioritizing Remediation

Posted August 19, 2011    Morey Haber

Here at eEye, we’ve been discussing in great depth, the value of various risk scoring mechanisms, attack vectors, and exploit intelligence. Considering all the various standards that are being used to derive risk scores (proprietary, CVSS, PCI (based on CVSS with conditions), DoD Categories, etc.) and how organizations are currently prioritizing remediation efforts, we found a gaping whole in all the paradigms. How do you consider real-world attacks and malware that may be impacting your organization and vulnerability analysis?

A case in point. CVSS provides a vehicle to grade Environmental conditions for assets but does not consider real-world malware and attacks that may be occurring against those hosts in a Temporal setting. If mitigation defenses are stopping those threats, wouldn’t you want to change the priority of those remediation efforts based vulnerabilities that can be mitigated and are not being attacked verses ones that are actively being attacked and potentially defended?

This is why attack and malware data are a crucial consideration in prioritizing remediation effort. Consider this example with three hosts, all with similar configurations. One is a lab machine in and isolated environment experiencing no problems (used to develop an application), a production server being attacked internally with a known vulnerability (the backend to a client service infrastructure), and a DMZ host operating normally (the forward facing component). CVSS Environmental metrics will score them correctly based on the physical location and purpose but fails to consider that active attacks and malware are occurring on a regular basis against any one of them. Shouldn’t that raise (or lower) your assets risk score to change your remediation efforts?

eEye has taken these discussions and concept to the next level. Our Unified Vulnerability Management solution correlates attack and malware data to assets and allows you to make decisions based on active conditions affecting a host. Malware and Attack data can be collected from our endpoint agents and they can even harvest data from other anti-virus solutions that may be loaded on the same host. In other words, eEye’s Retina Protection Agent can protect a host (or replace other security agents) and forward these metrics to Retina CS and gather data from other security agents on the same host, and correlate them in the management console as well. This provides the additional information that is required for prioritizing remediation efforts regardless of data source. Consider the screen shot below:


The Retina Protection Agent has been loaded on the same host as a Symantec Endpoint Protection. Malware data is being collected along with attack information, windows security log information, and most importantly, local vulnerability assessment data. All of this information is being encrypted and transmitted to Retina CS for reports and prioritization efforts. Reports are available for all of the security metrics and a risk score applied to each asset based on:

  • Vulnerability – The quantity and severity of vulnerability audits identified by Retina or Blink.
  • Attacks – A direct measure of actual attacks and malware identified by eEye’s endpoint agents regardless of there identification natively or through another endpoint security agent.
  • Exposure - A measure of how open a system is to an attack. This is based on how open a system is based on the number of open ports, shares, services, and users a host contains and the lack of protection such as a firewall or anti-virus solution.
  • Threat - A measure of potential danger to an asset based on user defined criteria and/or system role.

This considers all of the information from the best risk scoring standards and adds additional weighting for current state of attacks, exposure of the device, and user definable “Criticality” for the host(s). Within the user interface this is called “Asset Risk” and is a normalized score from 1 to 10 of the highest risk assets considering all the metrics we discussed. It gives you that additional criteria for which assets to remediate first while detailed scoring instructs you which vulnerabilities on that asset (or for the entire environment) you should be first in your queue.

Prioritizing Remediation efforts no longer has to be a function of only risk scoring, temporal (which include exploitability), and environmental factors based on vulnerabilities alone. eEye has included critical attack and malware metrics to not only rate the vulnerability, but allow you to gauge if attempts are being made to compromise the host as well. For more information on Retina CS, please click here. Prioritizing your risks just got simpler knowing if your assets are being attacked or not.

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