Real-World Breach Shows Prioritizing Vulnerabilities Matters

Over at Krebs on Security, a rare but fascinating look into the monetary and brand reputation effects a real-world breach can have on a corporation were outlined last week in the fascinating post “FDIC: 2011 FIS Breach Worse Than Reported“. The post provides an in-depth review of the impact of the 2011 breach at FIS in which FIS originally stated ““7,170 prepaid accounts may have been at risk and that three individual cardholders’ non-public information may have been disclosed as a result of the unauthorized activities” in their original filing with the SEC. The article provided two very interesting insights. First, there are truly real-word financial and brand consequences in failing to effectively implement network security controls. Kreb’s article provides an in-depth look at the results of the FDIC audits performed at FIS in 2011 and 2012 as a result of the original breach incident. What was interesting to learn is that as FIS is a service provider to banks and not actually a bank, the FDIC is unable to levy fines against it or shut it down directly. However, in May of this year, the FDIC sent the results of its audits to all of FIS’s customers, as the post highlights with a letter attached that began “We are sending you this report for your evaluation and consideration in managing your vendor relationship with FIS.” The FDIC made this decision despite the fact that FIS has spent over $100 million dollars in trying to shore up their network security controls. This will obviously have some negative brand and revenue impact for FIS as the result of the FDIC actions.

The second interesting point within the post was the details around the environment FIS was attempting to secure, and the amount of vulnerabilities they were dealing with. Portions of the FDIC report that were noted in the post showed that FIS was dealing with “approximately 30,000 servers and operating systems, another 30,000 network devices, over 40,000 workstations, 50,000 network circuits, and 28 mainframes running 80 LPARs”. The post also highlights that “The Executive Summary Scan reports from November 2012 show 18,747 network vulnerabilities and over 291 application vulnerabilities as past due”. While 18,747 vulnerabilities identified in a scan might seem like a lot, it is not uncommon in a network of this size and scope. Many FireMon customers have seen scan results with an even greater amount of identified vulnerabilities. The challenge when faced with this amount of vulnerabilities is knowing which ones truly matter. Out of 18,000+ vulnerabilities, how would you know which ones to remediate first? Attempting to manually sort through the vulnerabilities or simply patching the highest value assets doesn’t actually solve the problem. An automated, intelligent and continuous real-time assessment of the vulnerabilities that shows what assets are truly reachable over the network by an attacker, and which remediation efforts will reduce the greatest amount risk (and access)  is the only way to proactively solve this problem.