Network Configuration Management = Risk Management

Last week I spoke at the United Security Summit about operationalizing risk into everyday security operations (and had some fun with song parody titles along the way as evidenced by the photo attached to this post). The talk focused on the different elements required to answer the only question that really matters: what assets are truly at risk in your network right now? One of those elements that I highlighted was configuration management.

Configuration Management has traditionally been pitched as a tool that can help eliminate mistakes and downtime within your network. That certainly is one of the benefits that configuration tools provide. However, I would argue that configuration tools are a risk management tool, particularly on the network and network security side of the house. If a router admin adds an ACL that suddenly opens access to an internal network from outside networks, that is a huge risk to the network. If a firewall admin mistakenly pushes an overly permissive policy that permits any source and service to an internal network, you need to be alerted to the risk. As I noted in my talk, ideally, your configuration tool also inter-operates with your visual attack tool, and updates the attack topology continuously and in real-time as these changes are made to the network and network security devices in your environment.

I also noted that there are others doing great work around this idea of operationalizing risk, or building a risk platform. Securosis has an amazing white paper discussing building a vulnerability management platform, and all of the elements needed to truly address risk in your environment. As they note in their paper, There really shouldn’t be a distinction between scanning for a vulnerability and checking for a bad configuration. Either situation provide an opportunity for compromise. Don’t open up your environment to potential compromise; be sure to include device configuration management as part of your day to day risk operations.