If time is money, vulnerability backlog is really expensive

Sponsored by Rezilion, the purpose of this research is to understand the state of organizations’ DevSecOps efforts to manage vulnerabilities throughout the software attack surface. Ponemon Institute surveyed 634 IT and IT security practitioners who are knowledgeable about their organizations’ attack surface and effectiveness in managing vulnerabilities.

All organizations have adopted DevSecOps or are in the process of adopting a DevSecOps approach. According to the research, the lack of the right security tools is the primary barrier to having an effective DevSecOps. This challenge is followed by a lack of workflow integration and the growing vulnerability backlog.

In this research, we have defined DevSecOps (short for development, security and operations) as the automation of the integration of security at every phase of the software development lifecycle from initial design through integration, testing, deployment and software delivery.

At the heart of having a successful vulnerability management program is alignment between DevSecOps and the development team in being able to achieve both innovation and security when delivering products. Only 47 percent of respondents say their organizations’ development team delivers both an enhanced customer experience and secure applications and 53 percent of respondents are concerned that the lack of visibility and prioritization in DevOps security practices puts product security at risk.

Fifty-five percent of respondents say their development engineers, product security teams and compliance teams are aligned to understand their organizations’ security posture and each other’s area of responsibilities to deliver secure products.

The following are key takeaways from the research.

 The two primary reasons to adopt DevSecOps are to improve the collaboration between development, security and operations and reduce the time to patch vulnerabilities, according to 45 percent of respondents. In addition to improving collaboration and reducing time to patch, 41 percent of respondents say it automates the delivery of secure software without slowing the software development cycle (SDLC).

 Almost half of respondents say their organizations have a vulnerability backlog. Forty-seven percent of respondents say in the past 12 months organizations had applications that have been identified as vulnerable but not remediated. On average, 1.1 million individual vulnerabilities were in this backlog in the past 12 months and an average of 46 percent were remediated. However, respondents say their organizations would e satisfied if 29 percent of vulnerabilities in a year were remediated.

“This is a significant loss of time and dollars spent just trying to get through the massive vulnerability backlogs that organizations possess,” said Liran Tancman, CEO of Rezilion, which sponsored the research. ”If you have more than 100,000 vulnerabilities in a backlog, and consider the number of minutes that are spent manually detecting, prioritizing, and remediating these vulnerabilities, that represents thousands of hours spent on vulnerability backlog management each year. These numbers make it clear that it is impossible to effectively manage a backlog without the proper tools to automate detection, prioritization, and remediation.”

 The inability to prioritize what needs to be fixed is the primary reason vulnerability backlogs exist, according to 47 percent of respondents. A primary reason for the existence of backlogs is not having enough information about risks that would exploit vulnerabilities (45 percent of respondents) and the lack of effective tools (43 percent of respondents).

Forty-seven percent of respondents say their organizations have adopted a shift right strategy, which enables continuous feedback from users. Fifty-one percent of respondents believe the benefit of a shift right strategy empowers engineers to test more, test on time and test late.

Organizations are slightly more effective in prioritizing their most critical vulnerabilities than patching vulnerabilities. Fifty-two percent of respondents say their organizations’ prioritization of critical vulnerabilities is very effective but only 43 percent of respondents say timely patching is highly effective.

Vulnerability patching is mostly delayed because of the difficulty in tracking whether vulnerabilities are being patched in a timely manner. Difficulty in tracking (51 percent of respondents) is followed by the inability to take critical applications and systems off-line so they can be patched quickly (49 percent of respondents).

Automation significantly shortens the time to remediate vulnerabilities. Fifty-six percent of respondents say their organizations use automation to assist with vulnerability management. Of these respondents, 59 percent say their organizations automate patching, 47 percent say prioritization is automated and 41 percent say reporting is automated. Each week, the IT security team spends most of its time on the remediation of vulnerabilities. Sixty percent of respondents with automation say it significantly shortens the time to remediate vulnerabilities (43 percent) or slightly shortens the time (17 percent).

DevOps is an approach based on lean and agile principles to quickly deliver software that enables organizations to quickly seize market opportunities. Fifty-one percent of respondents say they have some involvement in their organization’s DevOps activities. As shown Fifty-two percent of these respondents say they are involved in vulnerability management and 49 percent of these respondents say they are involved in application security.

Certain features are important to creating secure applications or services. Sixty-five percent of respondents say the ability to perform tests as part of the workflow instead of stopping, testing, fixing and restarting development is very important and 61 percent of respondents say automating vulnerability, scanning and remediation at every stage of the SDLC is very important.

The inability to quickly detect vulnerabilities and threats is the number one reason vulnerabilities are difficult to remediate in applications. Sixty-one percent of respondents say it is very difficult or difficult to remediate vulnerabilities in applications. Why it is so difficult is because of the inability to quickly detect vulnerabilities and threats (55 percent of respondents), the inability to quickly perform patches on applications in production (49 percent of respondents) followed by the lack of enabling security tools (43 percent of respondents).

More than half of organizations focus only on those vulnerabilities that pose the most risk. Fifty-three percent of respondents believe it is important to focus on only those vulnerabilities that pose the most risk and not on remediating all vulnerabilities. Forty-nine percent of respondents say their organization remediates all vulnerabilities because it does not know which ones pose the most risk.

Testing applications and keeping an inventory of business-critical applications are steps that have been fully or partially implemented. To manage vulnerabilities, 45 percent of respondents say their organizations test the application for vulnerabilities using automation and 44 percent of respondents say their organizations have created and maintained an inventory of applications and assess their business criticality.

Software Bill of Materials (SBOM) is a list of components in a piece of software. Software vendors often create products by assembling open source and commercial components. The SBOM describes the components in the product. A dynamic SBOM is updated automatically whenever a release or change occurs. Forty-one percent of respondents say their organizations use SBOM. Risk assessment and compliance with regulations are the top two features of these organizations’ SBOMs. While 70 percent of respondents say continuous automatic updates are important or very important, only 47 percent say their SBOM features continuous updates.

 The growing software attack surface is a high concern.  Seventy-one percent of respondents say their organizations are very or highly concerned about risks created by the growing software attack surface. A higher percentage of respondents (77 percent) believe it is very or highly important.

Despite the concerns, most organizations are not effective in both knowing the attack surface and securing it. Only 43 percent of respondents say their organizations’ effectiveness is very high and only 45 percent of respondents say their organizations are effective in knowing the attack surface.

 Elimination of complexity and eliminate vulnerabilities that are exploitable are the most important steps to safeguard the attack surface. Sixty percent of respondents say the elimination of complexity in the software attack surface vulnerabilities that are exploitable (56 percent of respondents) will reduce threats to the attack surface. This is followed by knowledge of all software components (51 percent of respondents). Only 26 percent of respondents say regular network scans reduce threats.

To read the complete results of the survey, visit the Rezilion website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *