Think Your Network Is Safe? If You Don’t Have Visibility Into Hardware Vulnerabilities, Think Again

If you follow basic security best practices and quickly patch software issues as they arise, you may think your network is safe from cyberthreats. But think again.

Although the number of reported software vulnerabilities is growing year to year, it’s hardware vulnerabilities that can be even more difficult to fix and can cause extensive damage to enterprise networks. With attack surfaces growing and cybercriminal tactics becoming more dangerous and sophisticated by the minute, security teams can’t afford to neglect hardware flaws.

Security operations center (SOC) analysts need full visibility into Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) and other sources of vulnerability data to effectively identify, manage and remediate hardware vulnerabilities. Let’s explore some steps you can take to achieve this visibility and plug security gaps before threat actors can exploit them to breach your network.

Assess Your Inventory to Gain Visibility Into Hardware Vulnerabilites

The first step is to understand your infrastructure. Collect key data on your hardware and software, such as central processing unit (CPU) vendor and model, firmware and basic input/output system (BIOS) version, motherboard vendor and model, and a list of connected devices. These attributes will help you understand the potential impact from a highly visible attack like Meltdown or Spectre and build a response plan accordingly.

If hardware is impacted, it may be very difficult to fix the problem. Often the only viable mitigation strategy is to apply a software patch. Hardware issues frequently occur at the chip level and sometimes require collaboration between hardware and software vendors. Therefore, you need a consolidated view into your hardware and software inventory to assess the exposure level of any hardware vulnerability and know which machines already have a software patch applied.

Identify Reliable Sources of Vulnerability Data

Once you know what hardware and software you have deployed, the next step is to correlate the inventory data with reliable sources of vulnerability data. Data normalization is a known challenge during this phase, and you may choose to either build your own solution or invest in a ready-made application programming interface (API) enriched with vulnerability information. But even with automation, manual work is often required to further enrich this vulnerability data with hardware attributes, assess the impact and prioritize the response accordingly.

Fulfill Your SOC Team’s Need for Speed

To mount a worthy fight against the growing number of cyberthreats amid a growing industrywide skills gap, SOC teams need a solution that addresses their need for speed. If you’re ready to step up to the challenge of hardware vulnerability management, it’s time to shift from a reactive to a proactive approach to endpoint security. Improved visibility into your hardware vulnerabilities is the key to taking that next step.

Make Security Analytics More Effective with Deep Insight into Endpoints

Piotr Godowski

Software Architect, IBM

Piotr Godowski is a software architect for the IBM Krakow Software Lab in Poland. He has more than eight years of...