Maintaining compliance with government regulations can be daunting for many companies. This is especially true when it comes to the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC), which requires Department of Defense (DoD) contractors to implement specific security controls in order to protect sensitive data pertaining to national security.
One such security control is vulnerability scanning. This involves identifying and addressing potential weaknesses in systems and networks that could be exploited by attackers. By conducting vulnerability scanning regularly, your organization can mitigate the risk of data breaches and other cyber incidents.
But how exactly does vulnerability scanning help you achieve CMMC compliance? Let’s take a closer look at vulnerability scanning and vulnerability remediation in the context of CMMC.
Related reading: What Security Services Are Necessary to Be Compliant with CMMC 2.0?
What is vulnerability scanning?
Vulnerability scanning is a type of vulnerability assessment that involves proactively looking for weaknesses in an IT environment. This can be done manually, by inspecting systems and networks one by one for potential vulnerabilities, or automatically, with the use of vulnerability scanners.
Vulnerability scans are typically categorized into the following:
- External vulnerability scans target apps, systems, and networks that are outside the network perimeter. They’re designed to identify vulnerabilities in publicly exposed systems and networks, such as web servers and remote access solutions, that malicious actors can exploit to infiltrate your business network.
- Internal vulnerability scans are conducted on systems and networks that are inside your network perimeter. These help you identify hardware misconfigurations, software vulnerabilities, missing patches, and other weak spots that may have been missed by external vulnerability scans.
- Environmental scans look for weak spots in the environment that your technology operates in. These specialized scans are available for different technology deployments, including cloud, mobile, Internet of Things (IoT), and more.
How do vulnerability scanning solutions work?
There is a wide variety of vulnerability scanning solutions on the market, and they all work differently. However, most vulnerability scanners operate on the same framework, which includes these four steps:
- Asset discovery – The vulnerability scanning solution takes inventory of all the assets in your network, including servers, desktops, mobile devices, peripherals, and virtual resources like containers and virtual machines. It then identifies important characteristics such as the machine’s or device’s operating system (OS), the software running on it, and other attributes like user account privileges and open ports.
- Vulnerability assessment – After taking inventory of your assets, the vulnerability scanning solution checks each item against vulnerability databases to identify potential weaknesses. The vulnerability databases used by scanners generally include those provided by hardware and software vendors, in addition to their own internal vulnerability database. Some scanners automatically score each vulnerability based on its severity, which can help you prioritize your remediation efforts.
- Remediation – Once vulnerabilities are identified, the vulnerability scanning solution provides remediation recommendations. These may include steps to fix the vulnerability or, if it can’t be fixed right away, steps to mitigate the issue to help protect your systems and networks until a permanent fix can be implemented.
- Reporting – Finally, the vulnerability scanning solution produces detailed reports of the scans it conducted, along with the results of the vulnerability assessments and remediation recommendations. These reports can help you monitor your vulnerability scanning efforts and identify trends, such as whether vulnerability counts are increasing or decreasing over time.
How vulnerability scanning keeps you compliant with CMMC
In the original CMMC framework, now referred to as CMMC 1.0, achieving Level 2 compliance required you to implement CMMC Practice RM.2.142. This control focused on continuous vulnerability scanning, requiring DoD contractors to “scan for vulnerabilities in organizational systems and applications periodically and when new vulnerabilities affecting those systems and applications are identified.”
For instance, if a report from a vulnerability database identified an OS bug that could affect your business, you would need to scan all of your systems running that OS to quickly find and fix any instances of the vulnerability. Doing so allowed you to protect your systems from potential attacks and maintain compliance with CMMC.
CMMC Practice RM.2.143, on the other hand, required contractors to “remediate vulnerabilities in accordance with risk assessments.” This meant that you needed a plan in place for reviewing the vulnerability scanning reports, and then fixing or mitigating the detected vulnerabilities based on the information gleaned from the assessment.
There is no specific information yet on vulnerability scanning and remediation requirements in CMMC 2.0 (the updated CMMC framework) but implementing these practices will be sure to help you improve your business's cybersecurity posture.
Related reading: The Timeline for CMMC 2.0 Rollout: What You Should Know
It will still be some time before DoD contractors see CMMC 2.0 as a contractual obligation, but expert guidance and reliable IT services from Charles IT now can help make future compliance easier. Contact us today to get started!