Cyber Exposure: Taking a Holistic Approach to Vulnerability Management

Kevin Flynn

Tenable’s six-part blog series explores the challenges involved in achieving a holistic cybersecurity strategy and provides tips and advice for advancing the discipline of Cyber Exposure in your enterprise.

Piecemeal approaches to cybersecurity result in gaps and overlaps which, in turn, lead to unexpected vulnerabilities and unintended redundancies in budget and resource spend. This leaves your team with alert fatigue and stuck in a rut of tackling threats as separate tasks. 

A holistic Cyber Exposure strategy, by contrast, eradicates the gaps and overlaps and focuses the team and resources on vulnerabilities across the entire attack surface. Cyber Exposure is an emerging discipline for managing and measuring cybersecurity risk in the digital era. Cyber Exposure enables organizations to manage and measure the modern attack surface to accurately understand and reduce their cyber risk. Cyber Exposure translates raw vulnerability data into business insights to help security teams prioritize and focus remediation based on business risk. Cyber Exposure provides executives and boards of directors with a way to objectively measure cyber risk to help guide strategic decision making.

Just as other functions have a system of record — including ITSM for IT and CRM for Sales — Cyber Exposure solutions provide security professionals with a system of record to help them effectively manage and measure cyber risk.

4 Cybersecurity Questions Every CISO Should Be Ready to Answer

Building a holistic cybersecurity strategy using the discipline of Cyber Exposure enables you to answer each of these four questions about your organization at any point in time:

  • Where are we exposed? 
  • How should we prioritize based on risk? 
  • How are we reducing exposure over time? 
  • How do we compare to our peers? 
  • Learn more about how to prepare your organization to readily answer these four key Cyber Exposure questions here

    3 Tips for Identifying Your Organization’s Cyber Exposure Gap

    “Where are we exposed?” is the first of the four key Cyber Exposure questions — and the most crucial question to answer. Vulnerabilities are often hidden and hard to find.

    Networks are continuously expanding in terms of numbers and types of internet-connected devices. The challenges in securing and monitoring the entire network are also growing at unprecedented speed. 

    Internet of Things (IoT) devices are not the only hidden corners that provide opportunities for attackers. Cloud services and cloud environments, containers, industrial control devices, points of sale, HVAC, and anything not typically handled by the IT/SecOps teams contain significant openings for increasingly sophisticated threats to exploit. Getting — and maintaining — a handle on where the highest risks lie is necessary to protecting your company’s brand and assets.

    Learn more about how to answer the critical Cyber Exposure question “where are we exposed?” here.

    5 Tips for Prioritizing Vulnerabilities Based on Risk

    Once you’ve gained an accurate view of your entire attack surface, it’s time to consider how to prioritize your vulnerability response strategy. Since no two organizations are alike, this requires understanding the level of business threat each vulnerability poses to the critical assets in your particular organization.

    At a time when organizations of all sizes are challenged to keep their cybersecurity teams adequately staffed, being able to prioritize your vulnerability response tactics is more essential than ever. According to the report Measuring and Managing the Business Costs of Cyber Risk, conducted by Ponemon Institute on behalf of Tenable, the majority of organizations say the security function does not have adequate staffing to scan vulnerabilities in a timely manner. Without effective response prioritization, how can you know where to invest limited resources and personnel to protect your organization’s most critical assets?

    Learn more about how to answer the critical Cyber Exposure question “how should we prioritize based on risk?” here.

    Metrics and Maturity: Benchmarking Your Cyber Exposure Over Time

    Once you understand the entirety of your attack surface, the next challenge is to develop a granular understanding of where your most business-critical assets are housed so you can begin to measure your progress in keeping them safe. This means comparing analytical outputs by business unit, geography and asset types.

    Only then can you begin to benchmark your performance by creating a Cyber Exposure score. Benchmarking starts with raw numbers, such as how many vulnerabilities you have this year compared with last year, or how significant those vulnerabilities are to your organization. But it’s much more than that. It’s also about process maturity, such as how long it takes your organization to remediate critical vulnerabilities this year versus last year, and how effectively you’re responding to new vulnerabilities year over year. 

    Learn more about how to answer the critical Cyber Exposure question “how are we reducing our exposure over time?” here.

    How Do Your Cyber Exposure Practices Stack Up to Those of Your Peers?

    Answering the last of these essential questions involves determining your company’s ranking amongst its peers in a competitive assessment of your defenses. Knowing where your company stands within your industry sector is crucial to developing an accurate understanding of the real-world potential for any threat to affect your operations.

    Without the context made possible through industry benchmarking, you’re only telling part of the story. Achieving accurate benchmarking against your peers requires a living, breathing scoring system — one that evolves along with the threats that are out there — with data aggregated from a wide range of sources.

    Learn more about how to answer the critical Cyber Exposure question “how do we compare to our peers?” here.

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    Read the complete Cyber Exposure blog series:

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    Published on Jul 15, 2019

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