Almost every organization with an IT setup is vulnerable to Cyber-attacks. There is a general rule of thumb regarding managing these attacks; the quicker we find the cyber-threats, the faster we can patch the discovered vulnerabilities. Organizations usually have their own Cybersecurity teams to manage the Cyber challenges. However, it is not always possible for Cybersecurity departments to find every existing Cyber bug. To deal with this challenge, organizations can define a policy to onboard skilled users as part of their Cyberdefense program. This program is termed as Vulnerability Disclosure Policy (VDP). The vulnerability disclosure policy allows users (ethical hackers) to discover and report the potentially harmful vulnerabilities in the products and services offered by organizations. The policy defines rules for the people to report the vulnerabilities to the concerned authorities; the authorities follow the standard procedures to take actions against the reported threats and vulnerabilities.
Do All Organizations Require VDP?
vulnerability disclosure policy provides an extra layer of security, not all enterprises implement this policy. However, organizations having IT infrastructure connected with external networks are encouraged to implement the policy. The reason for endorsing the security policy for such organizations is the availability of unlimited attack vectors. The internet opens unlimited possibilities for hackers to scan and exploit vulnerable networks.
How to Setup a Vulnerability Disclosure Policy?
organizations can define a custom vulnerability disclosure program, there are certain guidelines and formats available to build a standard vulnerability disclosure policy. The examples include the vulnerability disclosure policy guidelines provided by the US Department of Justice and National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) of the United Kingdom. Following is presented the important attributes of a good vulnerability disclosure policy based on these guidelines.
1) Classification and Identification Protocols
Hardware Taxonomy: An organization must define the physical assets that should be included in the disclosure program. Each organization has its own set of rules to define sensitive IT infrastructure. The organization can include or exclude certain assets from the vulnerability disclosure policy based on their preferences.
Data Classification: Data classification is an important aspect of the vulnerability disclosure program. An organization must define the information classes so that the users can differentiate between the sensitive and normal data. Guidelines must be defined to access, store, or process the sensitive data for vulnerability identification.
Vulnerabilities categorization: There are hundreds of vulnerabilities that can lead to Cyber breaches. The organizations must decide which type of Cyber vulnerabilities can be a part of the vulnerability disclosure policy. SOPs must be followed to identify and report the classified vulnerabilities. For instance, a user must know what type of penetration testing tools or practices are allowed to find the security bugs.
2) Vulnerability Reporting Procedure
A user must submit the vulnerability report with all relevant codes, screenshots, and possible explanations. A clear point of contact must be available to all users to report the identified vulnerabilities. An official email can be used for this purpose. The reported vulnerabilities may contain information that is vulnerable to eavesdropping and exploitation by third parties. An encryption technique should be employed while communicating the discovered vulnerabilities.
3) Vulnerabilities Validation and Response
The submissions must be analyzed by the concerned departments to verify the discovered bugs. Severity levels must be defined to classify the reported vulnerabilities. All the qualified vulnerabilities must be entertained by the concerned departments, such as incident response teams. Immediate patches and backup plans must be implemented to rectify the bugs.
Benefits of Vulnerability Disclosure Policy
Organizations can benefit a lot by defining a vulnerability disclosure policy (VDP). Some of these benefits are explained below.
VDP Ensures the Commitment: There are regional data protection laws like HIPPA and GDPR that organizations must comply with to ensure the security and safety of user information. Hence organizations are bound and committed to providing security to the information gathered, stored, or processed by them. The VDP can help organizations in achieving these goals by finding the weak knots in the security system.
VDP Attracts Top Level Ethical Hackers: There are a number of security researchers who can find zero-day vulnerabilities and willing to report them. However, security laws prohibit them from submitting any bugs without legal cover. The vulnerability disclosure policy provides them a legal framework to discover and report these vulnerabilities.
VDP Accelerates the Discovery Process: Although the majority of organizations own security teams to find and patch the security bugs, the involvement of independent hackers can speed up the process of finding security flaws in the services and products offered by organizations.
VDP Builds Trust in Organizations: There are a number of organizations that store and process the users’ private information. Organizations take every possible step to ensure the privacy and security of such information. The implementation of a vulnerability disclosure policy shows confidence regarding the measures taken by organizations to safeguard such information assets.
Challenges of Vulnerability Disclosure Policy
The vulnerability disclosure policy is more challenging and different from bug bounty programs. In bounty programs, handpicked security experts are invited to find the bugs and get paid for their findings. On the other hand, the vulnerability disclosure policy provides an open platform to everyone with appreciation rewards. An organization may face the following challenges while implementing the vulnerability disclosure policy.
Unauthorized Techniques: An organization defines the allowed methods that can be used to find the security issues. However, it is quite challenging to bound users to follow only legal practices to find the vulnerabilities.
Data Possession: An organization may or may not allow the users to use, store, or manipulate sensitive information during the course of finding the security threats. However, it is not easier for enterprises to verify that the user has deleted the sensitive information after reporting the vulnerabilities.
Segregation of Assets: A vulnerability disclosure policy may define the network assets that can be accessed by the users to find out the vulnerabilities. However, the security researchers may require access to additional hardware or data assets to conclude the vulnerability. In these circumstances, an organization may divert from its original policy to allow users to access the previously prohibited assets.
There are hundreds of Cybersecurity vulnerabilities found on a daily basis. The vulnerability disclosure policy provides an easy channel to connect the organizations with the security volunteers who can spot the vulnerabilities for them. Although VDP can help organizations in identifying the security flaws, it is quite challenging to differentiate between the good-faith and black hat hackers benefiting from the defined policies. An organization must implement all the security measures through its hired security team. The VDP should be a secondary protection layer to fill the security gaps.