We’re now SOC 2 certified, with the help of our own vulnerability scanner. But what exactly is SOC 2, what does our certification mean ...
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The Importance Of Vulnerability Scanning For SOC 2 Audits

Patrick Craston

We’re now SOC 2 certified, with the help of our own vulnerability scanner. But what exactly is SOC 2, what does our certification mean for you – and could you need it for your business?

Security is critical for all organisations, including those that outsource key business operation to third parties like SaaS vendors and cloud providers. Rightfully so, since mishandled data – especially by application and network security providers – can leave organisations vulnerable to attacks, such as data theft, extortion and malware.

But how secure are the third parties you’ve entrusted with your data? SOC 2 is a framework that ensures these service providers securely manage data to protect their customers and clients. For security-conscious businesses – and security should be a priority for every business today – SOC 2 is now a minimal requirement when considering a SaaS provider.

Why we went for SOC 2

As a SaaS business, we recognised the benefits SOC 2 gives us and our customers – which is why we are now certified. It gives us a competitive advantage. It helps us to continually improve our own security practices. It helps us to meet customer demand. Most importantly, it gives current and prospective customers peace of mind. They can be confident that we have rock solid information security practices in place to keep their data safe and secure.

We used the Drata compliance platform for our audit. As it is automated, it simplifies what can otherwise be a slow and painful manual process of creating and constantly updating spreadsheets and taking endless screenshots. The SOC 2 auditor can simply log in and monitor the controls via a dashboard. Let’s look at SOC 2 in more detail.

What is SOC 2?

Developed by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), SOC 2 requires compliance for managing customer data based on five criteria or “trust service principles” - security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality and privacy.

It’s both a technical audit and a requirement that comprehensive information security policies and procedures are documented and followed. As with many other compliance certifications and accreditation, it is not just about joining the dots. It involves a complex set of requirements that must be documented, reviewed, addressed and monitored. There are two types or stages: Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1 or 2?

A SOC 2 Type 1 report evaluates cybersecurity controls at a single point in time. The goal is to determine whether the internal controls put in place to safeguard customer data are sufficient and designed correctly. Do they fulfil the required criteria?

A Type 2 report goes a step further, where the auditor also reports on how effective those controls are. They look at how well the system and controls perform over time (usually 3-12 months). What is their operating effectiveness? Do they work and function as intended?

Not just for techies

If you think only tech companies like SaaS or cloud service providers need SOC 2 certification, think again. The main benefit of SOC 2 certification is that it shows your organisation maintains a high level of information security.

That’s why healthcare providers like hospitals or insurance companies may require a SOC 2 audit to ensure an additional level of scrutiny on their security systems. The same could be said for financial services company or accountancies that handle payments and financial information. While they may meet industry requirements such as PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard), they often opt to undergo SOC 2 for additional credibility or if clients insist on it.

Cost-effective compliance

The rigorous compliance requirements ensure that the sensitive information is being handled responsibly. Any organisation that implements the necessary controls are therefore less likely to suffer data breaches or violate users’ privacy. This protects them from the negative effects of data losses, such as regulatory action and reputational damage.

SOC 2-compliant organisations can use this to prove to customers that they’re committed to information security, which in turn can create new business opportunities, because the framework states that compliant organisations can only share data with other organisations that have passed the audit.

Simplify SOC 2 with Intruder

One control you have to pass for your SOC 2 report is vulnerability management. And for that you can use Intruder – because that’s exactly what we did, using our own tool alongside the Drata platform. Intruder is easy to buy and simple to use. Just sign up and pay by credit card. Job done. You can tick the SOC 2 vulnerability management box in under 10 minutes.

Of course, Intruder is also a great tool to use on a day-to-day basis. Not only for its continuous monitoring to ensure your perimeters are secure, but for other scenarios that may require a SOC 2 report such as due diligence. If your business is trying to secure new investment, going through a merger, or being acquired by another business, due diligence will often include your security posture, how you handle data, and your exposure to risk and threats. With Intruder, it’s easy to prove you take your information security seriously.

Release Date
Level of Ideal
Comments
Before CVE details are published
🥳
Limited public information is available about the vulnerability.

Red teamers, security researchers, detection engineers, threat actors have to actively research type of vulnerability, location in vulnerable software and build an associated exploit.

Tenable release checks for 47.43% of the CVEs they cover in this window, and Greenbone release 32.96%.
Day of CVE publish
😊
Vulnerability information is publicly accessible.

Red teamers, security researchers, detection engineers and threat actors now have access to some of the information they were previously having to hunt themselves, speeding up potential exploit creation.

Tenable release checks for 17.12% of the CVEs they cover in this window, and Greenbone release 17.69%.
First week since CVE publish
😐
Vulnerability information has been publicly available for up to 1 week.

The likelihood that exploitation in the wild is going to be happening is steadily increasing.

Tenable release checks for 10.9% of the CVEs they cover in this window, and Greenbone release 20.69%.
Between 1 week and 1 month since CVE publish
🥺
Vulnerability information has been publicly available for up to 1 month, and some very clever people have had time to craft an exploit.

We’re starting to lose some of the benefit of rapid, automated vulnerability detection.

Tenable release checks for 9.58% of the CVEs they cover in this window, and Greenbone release 12.43%.
After 1 month since CVE publish
😨
Information has been publicly available for more than 31 days.

Any detection released a month after the details are publicly available is decreasing in value for me.

Tenable release checks for 14.97% of the CVEs they cover over a month after the CVE details have been published, and Greenbone release 16.23%.

With this information in mind, I wanted to check what is the delay for both Tenable and Greenbone to release a detection for their scanners. The following section will focus on vulnerabilities which:

These are the ones where an attacker can point their exploit code at your vulnerable system and gain unauthorised access.

We’ve seen previously that Tenable have remote checks for 643 critical vulnerabilities, and OpenVAS have remote checks for 450 critical vulnerabilities. Tenable release remote checks for critical vulnerabilities within 1 month of the details being made public 58.4% of the time, but Greenbone release their checks within 1 month 76.8% of the time. So, even though OpenVAS has fewer checks for those critical vulnerabilities, you are more likely to get them within 1 month of the details being made public. Let’s break that down further.

In Figure 10 we can see the absolute number of remote checks released on a given day after a CVE for a critical vulnerability has been published. What you can immediately see is that both Tenable and OpenVAS release the majority of their checks on or before the CVE details are made public; Tenable have released checks for 247 CVEs, and OpenVAS have released checks for 144 CVEs. Then since 2010 Tenable have remote released checks for 147 critical CVEs and OpenVAS 79 critical CVEs on the same day as the vulnerability details were published. The number of vulnerabilities then drops off across the first week and drops further after 1 week, as we would hope for in an efficient time-to-release scenario.

Figure 10: Absolute numbers of critical CVEs with a remote check release date from the date a CVE is published

While raw numbers are good, Tenable have a larger number of checks available so it could be unfair to go on raw numbers alone. It’s potentially more important to understand the likelihood that OpenVAS or Tenable will release a check of a vulnerability on any given day after a CVE for a critical vulnerability is released. In Figure 11 we can see that Tenable release 61% their checks on or before the date that a CVE is published, and OpenVAS release a shade under 50% of their checks on or before the day that a CVE is published.

Figure 11: Percentage chance of delay for critical vulnerabilities

So, since 2010 Tenable has more frequently released their checks before or on the same day as the CVE details have been published for critical vulnerabilities. While Tenable is leading at this point, Greenbone’s community feed still gets a considerable percentage of their checks out on or before day 0.

I thought I’d go another step further and try and see if I could identify any trend in each organisations release delay, are they getting better year-on-year or are their releases getting later? In Figure 12 I’ve taken the mean delay for critical vulnerabilities per year and plotted them. The mean as a metric is particularly influenced by outliers in a data set, so I expected some wackiness and limited the mean to only checks released 180 days prior to a CVE being published and 31 days after a CVE being published. These seem to me like reasonable limits, as anything greater than 6 months prior to CVE details being released is potentially a quirk of the check details and anything after a 1-month delay is less important for us.

What can we take away from Figure 12?

Figure 12: Release delay year-on-year (lower is better)

With the larger number of checks, and still being able to release a greater percentage of their remote checks for critical vulnerabilities Tenable could win this category. However, the delay time from 2019 and 2020 going to OpenVAS, and the trend lines being so close, I am going to declare this one a tie. It’s a tie.

The takeaway from this is that both vendors are getting their checks out the majority of the time either before the CVE details are published or on the day the details are published. This is overwhelmingly positive for both scanning solutions. Over time both also appear to be releasing remote checks for critical vulnerabilities more quickly.

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Written by

Patrick Craston

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