Microsoft recently patched the Windows Print Spooler remote code execution vulnerability, a weakness in its operating system that allowed cybercriminals to execute code with administrator privileges on any computer where the Windows Print Spooler service was active.
These serious OS security exploits, known by the cybersecurity community as “Print Nightmare,” left users of Windows 10, Windows Server 2012, and 2016 vulnerable to malicious code, malware, and data breaches on their computers — and even though a fix for this exploit is now available, many computers remain unpatched and exploitable.
Companies face such vulnerabilities every day as they take advantage of the technology available to streamline processes and protect resources. It is essential to understand cybersecurity vulnerabilities to protect the company and its stakeholders from threats.
Vulnerabilities vs. Risks vs. Threats
A vulnerability is a weakness in infrastructure, and that concept is just as true in IT infrastructure as it is in, say, building construction. A cybersecurity vulnerability is any weakness that can be exploited to bypass barriers or protections of an IT system and gain unauthorized access to it.
Vulnerabilities, risks, and threats are closely related, but they are not the same thing. Risks are associated with the probability of an event happening and its severity within the organization. Threats are forces that generate the risk (such as outside hackers or inside fraudsters), and take advantage of vulnerabilities to achieve their purpose.
To minimize cybersecurity risks and protect against cyber threats, therefore, a CISO must know and reduce the number of cybersecurity vulnerabilities present in the company’s IT ecosystem.
So what are the most common cybersecurity vulnerabilities?
5 Most Common Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities
Misconfiguration of Firewalls / OS
Today most electronics are programmed with a login screen or security system designed to be customized by users after the initial configuration is complete, so they can customize the equipment as they think best.
Those default configurations, however, are often protected by simple users and passwords such as “admin” or “12345678.” When a company leaves those configurations untouched, that becomes a vulnerability attackers can exploit.
Another example of this is the Internet of Things, or IoT systems. This kind of technology has brought its own set of vulnerabilities, and allowing traffic through them due to firewall misconfiguration can result in an easy entry point for cyberattacks.
Even though malware is in itself a threat and not a vulnerability, older malware is considered to be both because of the implications of its success after infecting a computer.
That is, once a device is infected, malware can create backdoors for new cyberattacks or become a beacon to gain access to other computers, leveraging the privileges of the infected machine and other common vulnerabilities.
This is the key to many ransomware attacks that have affected organizations in recent months, such as the Conti ransomware. That attack targeted devices previously infected with TrickBot malware, to gain access to healthcare organizations’ systems amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lack of Cybersecurity Awareness
Some of the most common vulnerabilities stem from the human resources using your IT systems.
For example, the use of weak passwords, the absence of strong authentication measures, the lack of knowledge about phishing, and other social engineering attacks — they are all a direct result of ignorance of the dangers to the overall cybersecurity of the organization.
Absence of Data Sanitization or Encryption Measures
The failure to encrypt or sanitize data, when entering that data into an IT system from the end-user’s device, can result in the leakage of sensitive data.
For example, SQL injections are cyber attacks that take advantage of search bars and other client-side requests to enter malicious code to access, extract, modify or destroy databases and potentially sensitive information.
The absence of measures to prevent this kind of attack can allow cybercriminals to steal data or install malicious software with a more general code injection approach.
The lack of encryption measures can translate into another vulnerability on the client side, allowing cross-site scripting or Man in the Middle (MitM) attacks that can affect the users of a platform or application.
Legacy or Unpatched Software
Failing to install software patches, or using software beyond its service life, is a vulnerability with potentially devastating effects. The good news: It’s easy to prevent these zero-day exploits with routine patching.
When companies don’t install patches frequently or use software that is no longer maintained and updated regularly, they become vulnerable to all future zero-day exploits and to all known exploits that hadn’t been resolved by the time of the last patch.
In addition to the initial case mentioned above, some software vulnerabilities continue to wreak havoc in organizations, such as:
CVE-2006-1547: Apache Struts ActionForm denial of service
This vulnerability was discovered in 2006 and affected companies by allowing denial of service (DoS) attacks in Java web applications that use the Struts framework.
CVE-2019-19871: Active Exploitation of Citrix NetScaler
This vulnerability affected Citrix ADC, Citrix Gateway, and NetScaler Gateway users, so cybercriminals can execute malicious code and download malware on affected servers. Fifty-nine percent of cyber attacks in January 2020 were a direct result of this vulnerability.
How to Safeguard Against Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities
Some cybersecurity vulnerabilities are unavoidable; there will always be new zero-day exploits unknown to users and creators that put organizations at risk. Still, with the proper mitigation measures, you can keep cybersecurity risks at a tolerable level.
With the help of patching and vulnerability management software, it is possible to track, manage, and schedule equipment updates within an IT ecosystem and protect devices from known exploits.
With cybersecurity awareness programs and a strong security posture, human-related vulnerabilities can be reduced as a vital part of the comprehensive protection of an organization’s digital infrastructure.
Frequent vulnerability scans are a crucial tool available to security teams to identify common vulnerabilities in systems and facilitate the patching of these structural weaknesses.
Finally, penetration testing is the most helpful tool for identifying vulnerabilities and protecting the company from these weaknesses. Pen testing provides a unique, personalized perspective of the organization’s systems and infrastructure and allows processes, methods, and security measures to be adapted in the face of real cyberattacks.
ZenGRC Helps Secure Your Business from Vulnerabilities
A vulnerability assessment isn’t a remedy for all of your cybersecurity issues, but it is an essential tactic for preventing cyberattacks and exploiting IT security weaknesses.
Because the risk environment evolves, regular vulnerability scanning, assessments, and penetration testing should be standard components of your company’s security assessment plan. Moreover, new security measures should be established as needed to handle unforeseen threats or misconfigurations that might compromise your business.
ZenGRC is governance, risk management, and compliance (GRC) software that assists you with routine vulnerability assessments and penetration testing. It gathers documentation, automates procedures, and reduces the need for continual follow-up while tracking outstanding activities.
ZenGRC can also track your compliance status across various frameworks in real-time, including PCI DSS, HIPAA, FedRAMP, and many others, telling you where your gaps are and what has to be done to close them. That enhances your overall security posture.
This not only makes compliance officers more effective in their roles. It also makes businesses more efficient in their continuous governance and constant monitoring tasks.
Schedule a free demo now to explore how ZenGRC can improve your cybersecurity practices.