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

Unified Vulnerability Management for Retailers

Posted May 17, 2011    Morey Haber

What do retailers worry about the most?  Outside of remaining profitable and competitive, theft is always a concern.  Theft can occur for a retailer in a variety of ways.  Everything from shoplifting, hijacking cargo shipments, to electronic identity theft.  Thieves are always trying to find new ways of stealing “something” and making money from it.  In today’s world, electronic data theft is a very profitable business and a worry for all businesses regardless of being ecommerce only or strictly brick and mortar.  Identifying where your electronic data risks are is just a portion of vulnerability management.  It is like checking whether the back door is locked and whether the alarm system has been properly set.

 Scanning for vulnerabilities identifies how potentially a thief could compromise your data systems and steal credit card information, personal data for clients or employees, or alter business operations that could prohibit normal transactions to occur.  These threats could occur on a website, a desktop computer, in a data center, and even on a mobile phone.  Thieves look for where the money is and electronic data is an easier medium for them to steal and profit from.  Protecting against this type of theft is what retailers need to be concerned about.

Since the inception of the PCI, any organization processing credit card data was requested to follow strict security procedures for minimizing the risk of electronic data theft.  While the process infuriated some retailers early in its adoption, the credit card industry saw it is a necessity due to the millions of dollars being lost by retailers due to inadequate security procedures for storing card holder data.  This business requirement outlined at a bare minimum what retailers (or any industry excepting credit cards) must due in order to keep electronic information secure.

Within the PCI DSS, there are very specific sections governing vulnerability assessment.  (If you are unfamiliar with the document and requirements, please click here).  For retailers, this meant performing a vulnerability assessment on a periodic basis, having a defined and documented process around patch remediation, and a method for managing changes to the environment and ensuring new risks are identified and mitigated promptly.  This process opened the door for vendors like eEye to supply vulnerability assessment scanners to meet these requirements. 5 years ago, these tools were enough to identify threats and provide remediation guidance.  Today, they are a small fraction of what is needed in order to manage the modern risks.  Thieves have refined there techniques and the tools needed to catch up; hence the need for Unified Vulnerability Management.

Unified Vulnerability Management is not simply identifying what the vulnerability risks are and providing remediation guidance, it is the entire process that PCI DSS wants organizations to adopt.  It is the assessment of vulnerabilities, the prompt mitigation (through patching or procedure based guidance) of vulnerabilities, and ultimately the protection against new threats even when no mitigation has been identified or created yet (zero day vulnerabilities).  The PCI Council understands that just fixing a security problem is not enough.  It is all about the process of having a periodic business function that finds these flaws and allows a user to fix them in a timely, orderly, and defined process.  Unified Vulnerability Management is the modern tool for retailers to establish this process and meet the requirements in a single vendor and solution.  And, use the solution to meet all the objectives that PCI requires including PCI ASV scanning and penetration testing services.

For retailers, it is all about being profitable.  Theft, competitors, and higher costs of business are all factors in a business’s failure or ultimate success.  Protecting your business is so much more than a good alarm system today.  It is protecting your information as well as your products from theft.  Assessing for vulnerabilities is not enough anymore.  Having the entire process for managing vulnerabilities is.  eEye has the solutions for retailers to meet these needs and manage and define your processes.  For more information on Retina, please click here.  eEye is a certified PCI ASV.

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