Cybersecurity vulnerability management is a continuous race against time compounded by device and application proliferation across cloud, IoT and mobile workers. This expanding attack surface increases pressure on resource-constrained security teams to patch before possible exploitation. Scanning platforms have improved, but comprehensive vulnerability management solutions still lack timely patch management capabilities.

In a recent Ponemon study, 57 percent of organizations said the root cause of a breach was due to an unpatched known vulnerability, with 34 percent of those organizations aware of the vulnerability before they were breached. While research is valuable (quantity of vulnerabilities, speed of weaponization and exploitation trends), organizations have been challenged with predicting future risk of exploitation and allocating vulnerability management resources appropriately.

Using data from more than 2,000 deployed eSentire sites, our Threat Intelligence team built a probability tool to depict risk rates for organizations that do not have a threat monitoring service in place. This tool generates statistical projections based on the ongoing and cumulative chance exploit attacks would have been picked up by our Security Operations Center, which watches for things getting through a gap in your security perimeter or firewall. Attack data was parsed according to industry to provide greater accuracy and context to the projections. Using a 12-month view, our findings painted an alarming picture with wide variances across industries. To understand these variances, let’s first examine the collective global probability across all industries.

Global trends present an instantaneous view of detected exploitation probability month-to-month for a single location. While the probability appears relatively low month-to-month, compounded (cumulative) probability rises to 27 percent over a 12-month period per protected location.

Singular Location: Month-to-month Exploitation Probability (Non-compounded)

Feb 18 Mar 18 Apr 18 May 18 Jun 18 July 18 Aug 18 Sep 18 Oct 18 Nov 18 Dec 18 Jan 19
13% 13% 14% 14% 14% 15% 13% 13% 14% 15% 14% 15%

Singular Location: Cumulative 12-Month Exploitation Probability (Compounded)

Feb 18 Mar 18 Apr 18 May 18 Jun 18 July 18 Aug 18 Sep 18 Oct 18 Nov 18 Dec 18 Jan 19
15% 16% 18% 19% 20% 22% 22% 23% 24% 25% 26% 27%

As many organizations have more than one location, cumulative probability of detected exploitation increases exponentially as more locations are included.

Cumulative 12-Month Exploitation Probability Per Location (Compounded)

1 Location 2 Locations 3 Locations 4 Locations 5 Locations 6 Locations 7 Locations 8 Locations 9 Locations 10 Locations
27% 46% 61% 71% 79% 85% 89% 92% 94% 96%

Looking at cumulative detected probability over a 12-month period per location, wide variances emerged across industries.

Singular Location: Cumulative Exploitation Probability (Compounded)

Global Finance Legal Manufacturing Technology Healthcare Mining Construction Insurance Retail
27% 29% 24% 30% 32% 29% 17% 16% 25% 40%

And, cumulative probabilities plotted over a 12-month period with 10 protected locations resulted in virtually all organizations detecting an exploit that bypassed the perimeter at a minimal of 83 percent or higher.

10 Locations: 12-Month Cumulative Exploitation Probability (Compounded)

Global Finance Legal Manufacturing Technology Healthcare Mining Construction Insurance Retail
96% 97% 94% 97% 98% 97% 85% 83% 95% 99%

Organizations familiar with the complexity and resource-intensive nature of managing vulnerabilities are likely not surprised by these statistics. In an imbalanced equation, threat actors have to find one blind spot while resource-constrained cybersecurity teams must account for every potential blind spot.

To visualize the disparity, the following is a high-level comparison of a threat actor’s approach vs. a security team:

mvs blog inlineimage

Notice the distinct differences between the two approaches:

  • Time required to execute
  • Complexity required to execute
  • Resources required to execute

While this blog may seem to paint a picture of impending doom, the reality is that mitigating risk of exploitation against critical assets is for the most part avoidable. Research proves that organizations with a fully functioning and resourced vulnerability management program is an effective preventative measure to the risk of exploitation. If you believe your organization may be at risk or under resourced to effectively operationalize an effective vulnerability management program, read more about the vulnerabilities organizations like yours are facing in our latest Threat Intelligence Report or learn more about how we help organizations with eSentire Managed Vulnerability Service, in partnership with Tenable.

wes hutcherson
Wes Hutcherson
Director of Product Marketing

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Articles and reports written by eSentire staff and our Threat Intelligence Research Group.

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