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Vulnerability Management with Nessus in the Cloud

Note:  Nessus Cloud is now a part of Tenable.io Vulnerability Management. To learn more about this application and its latest capabilities, visit the Tenable.io Vulnerability Management web page.


Regardless of whether you’re running applications and storing data in a physical, virtual or cloud environment (or a hybrid mix), a key responsibility for you as a security professional is to keep that environment free from vulnerabilities that attackers could use to get at your organization’s applications and data.

In some ways, managing vulnerabilities in the cloud is the same as managing vulnerabilities in other IT environments

In some ways, managing vulnerabilities in the cloud is the same as managing vulnerabilities in other IT environments. As we’ve highlighted in a previous blog, successful vulnerability management (VM) programs involve much more than simply putting a tool in place to scan IPs for flaws. Successful VM programs in any environment have stated goals, involve multiple stakeholders as active participants in the program, and address both security and compliance requirements. These core components of a successful program don’t change in any IT environment.

However, cloud technologies can introduce unique security and compliance challenges, many of which aren’t easily addressed with traditional vulnerability management tools and techniques. These challenges include:

Shared security responsibility

When an organization moves applications and data to the cloud, they will shift some - but not all - security responsibility to the cloud provider. Most cloud providers are responsible for securing their cloud infrastructure (such as physical data center security), while the cloud user is responsible for their applications and data running in the cloud platform. As a cloud user, it’s critical to know how responsibility is shared, as it can vary between cloud providers, and how to securely deploy and configure the applications or operating systems running on that cloud platform.

As a cloud user, it’s critical to know how responsibility is shared

Dynamic environments

It’s so quick and easy to spin up new instances of servers in the cloud, that organizations often create large numbers of cloud instances, increasing the number of servers to monitor and manage. But these cloud instances may only exist for a few hours or minutes, so tracking and updating what you have can be a challenge.

More players, different skillsets

Because it’s easy for anyone to spin up their own cloud resources, individuals and teams outside of IT can now deploy and manage their own IT environment. However, some of these individuals won’t have the expertise to set up their cloud environment securely. And even if they have cloud security expertise, that’s no guarantee that even a small configuration oversight won't have a negative or even devastating effect. For example, Code Spaces might still exist today if there had been tighter role-based access controls in their cloud environment.

How Nessus helps

Nessus® is designed to help organizations with vulnerability management in any IT environment. Organizations using Nessus get the benefit of using the same product in cloud, virtual and physical environments so you don’t need to license and learn new tools depending on where you’ve deployed your IT.

For vulnerability management in the cloud, Nessus delivers specific capabilities to address the challenges outlined above. For example:

  • Scan for vulnerabilities in cloud instances. Because of shared security responsibility models, it’s important that you scan for vulnerabilities in cloud instances. You can run Nessus natively in the cloud to scan for software flaws and Tenable makes it easy to access and launch Nessus from popular cloud providers like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.
  • Use agents to scan dynamic assets. Both Nessus Cloud and Nessus Manager include the ability to use agents. You can script the deployment of Nessus Agents so they install automatically with new cloud instances and use them to track and monitor for vulnerabilities as new instances are spun up.
  • Audit for configuration issues. Securely configuring your cloud environment is your responsibility. For example, are you enforcing a strong password policy or do you flag accounts that haven’t been used in more than 90 days? To help, Nessus comes with pre-built templates for auditing the configuration of popular cloud providers. We have an on-demand webcast that covers what Nessus provides for Amazon, Microsoft and Rackspace clouds in more detail. Our director of research Mehul Revankar has also written a number of detailed blog articles on what’s available in Nessus.

Summary

While in some ways, vulnerability management in the cloud is the same as any other environment, there are also some key differences. By understanding these differences and addressing them in your program, you can ensure vulnerability management success where ever you have your IT assets.

While in some ways, vulnerability management in the cloud is the same as any other environment, there are also some key differences