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Your cybersecurity strategy is as strong as your weakest vulnerability. In other words, finding and mending vulnerabilities in your systems should be a top priority for you.

Any vulnerability can be exploited by threat actors to compromise your digital assets, data security, systems, or IP. We are talking about process, code, and configuration vulnerabilities that could be found by hackers.

Every thousand lines of code in a typical software application may contain dozens of bugs, and some of them may not be discovered during the Development Operations (DevOps) process.

That is why a Vulnerability Disclosure Program (VDP) is vital for the cybersecurity strategy of your company, especially for managing possible risks that may appear. But setting up a VDP demands you to fully understand how it works, what are its benefits, and how to manage it.

What Is a Vulnerability Disclosure Program (VDP)?

The Vulnerability Disclosure Program (VDP) is a centralized process through which a company gets security expert reports about security flows in its publicly accessible, web-facing assets.

VDP increases a business’ security posture by involving the cybersecurity community. Every researcher can submit a report via a platform that simplifies program scope, ranks vulnerabilities by magnitude, and monitors remediation progress. By supporting the disclosure and remediation of flaws, a company can mitigate risks before being exploited by a cybercriminal.

It is very important that a Vulnerability Disclosure program will include a very clear methodology for the organization, but also for the security researchers. Also, when multiple partners are affected, coordinating vulnerability disclosure through the VDP is very helpful. Users can also benefit from VDPs by performing technical vulnerability management and protecting their information and systems.

What Are Vulnerability Disclosure Policies?

For a Vulnerability Disclosure Program to be really successful, it has to lead to finding those vulnerabilities that could most strongly impact an organization and that would be a big opportunity for a hacker.

To do so, cybersecurity researchers have to try to step into the shoes of a cybercriminal and examine an organization’s defense systems through the eyes of a possible threat. They have to try the bypass the cybersecurity measures without the intent of doing harm and with the total support and knowledge of the targeted company.

Because vulnerability disclosure is a sensitive ground, VDP must contain a clear set of policies to be followed. Vulnerability disclosure policies serve as the foundation for a vulnerability disclosure program and, according to Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) it contains the following sections:

Introduction

This section contains information about the organization, like background, core values, approach to security, and more. It also explains why this program was created and what are the goals of the VDP.

Authorization

This section states your promise not to sue anyone who does security research activities that are in good faith efforts to comply with the policy.

Guidelines

This section draws the lines about how vulnerability disclosure must be done, so it will not jeopardize the security of your company.

Test methods

Because some testing methods can be damaging to your business activity or even to your assets, this section rules them out.

Usually, social engineering, DoS and DDoS tests are off-limits, as well as other tests that block access to a firm’s resources (software or hardware) or damage them.

Scope

This section specifies which internet-connected systems or services are covered by your policy (you can also publish a list of which systems and services are not).

Reporting a vulnerability

This section regards the way communication will be made between your company and the person who submits a vulnerability.

It must include details about where the report should be submitted, what information you need about the vulnerability, and in what form. Also, it should be possible that a report to be submitted anonymously.

You should show transparency about how fast a reporter can expect a reaction from your organization.

You are encouraged to modify the CISA vulnerability disclosure policies according to the needs of your company, but they should be published somewhere visible on your website.

Vulnerability Disclosure Framework

If it is well-implemented, a VDP will help you to discover bugs, monitor them, rank them by gravity, and, as a final step, mend them and give feedback for the report.

The easiest way to start a program is to get reports by email, to a dedicated email address. This will give your company an accommodation period and can mean that a large number of reports will be submitted at the beginning.

You can then embed a submission form into your website. This will mean a greater level of commitment, and a public display of your intention to protect your clients and your organization. Another solution is to choose a vendor platform for your VDP.

Once the reports are gathered, they are analyzed and cataloged by examining the technical details and the risks they pose. To mitigate vulnerabilities the bugs patches and updates are planned and eventually applied. These steps can be done in-house or with the help of a specialized vendor.

Types of Vulnerability Disclosure Programs

VDPs program may be different depending on the level of transparency involved and the way that a company wants to deal with vulnerability management:

Non-disclosure programs

Forbids the reporter to disclose publicly any part of the zero-day vulnerabilities, even after it is remediated by the company. This requirement stays in place regardless of the gravity of the findings.

Coordinated (or discretionary) disclosure

In this case, the VDP permits public disclosure of a vulnerability. It can be whole disclosure, a partial one, or it can be determined on a case-by-case basis.

But if a vulnerability can impact human health and well-being it will not be disclosed publicly. In this category falls automobiles, medical devices, and other devices that can’t be updated or mended remotely.

Time-boxed disclosure

This type of VDP gives the company a certain period of time to fix the problem before publicly announcing a vulnerability.

Benefits of a Vulnerability Disclosure Program

Your business can benefit from a VDP on multiple levels, from financial to branding, many areas are positively impacted by it:

  • It reduces cybersecurity risks by helping you to identify vulnerabilities, rank them by gravity, and remediate them.
  • It helps you save money by keeping you safe from cybercriminals, as every attack can mean serious financial loss.
  • Helps you smooth the road of digital transformations, so your business can be more digital-oriented without setbacks and mistakes.
  • Helps you reach compliance standards.
  • You can approach risk management in a safe environment given by the VDP policies
  • The transparency given by a VDP gives your customers more confidence in your brand and gains you a good name in the business.

How Can Heimdal® Help?

By using an automated patch management software, you can be one step ahead in your VDP journey, making sure that the vulnerabilities and threat actors will not interfere with your system

Heimdal® Security’s Patch & Asset Management comes to your help, as it is a complete, all-encompassing patch management solution that can inventory hardware and software assets, uncover historical vulnerabilities, and patch current applications.

This solution supports patches, updates, and hotfixes from proprietary, third-party, and OS-specific sources.

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Wrapping Up…

The Vulnerability Disclosure Program is a great tool for your cybersecurity strategy and will help you to test your cyber defense, find the flaws and correct them. But it is also a statement and a responsibility you accept pin a public manner about keeping a high standard of cybersecurity in your business.

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Author Profile

Andreea Chebac

Digital Content Creator

Andreea is a digital content creator within Heimdal® with a great belief in the educational power of content. A literature-born cybersecurity enthusiast (through all those SF novels…), she loves to bring her ONG, cultural, and media background to this job.

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