Security misconfigurations are security controls that are inaccurately configured or left insecure, putting your systems and data at risk. Basically, any poorly documented configuration changes, default settings, or a technical issue across any component in your endpoints could lead to a misconfiguration.
If vulnerabilities are the gateway to the network, it's the misconfigurations that attackers leverage to worm their way to the intended targets. Security misconfigurations are not hard to fix, but they are unavoidable in an enterprise operating at scale. Finding them is a needle in the haystack, as they can be located across any component in an organization’s systems, such as its servers, operating systems, applications, and browsers. Lack of visibility and centralized means to remediate misconfigurations makes organizations fall victim to misconfiguration attacks.
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A misconfiguration can occur for a myriad of reasons. Modern network infrastructures are exceedingly complex and characterized by constant change; organizations can easily overlook crucial security settings, including new network equipment that might retain default configurations. Even if you've provisioned secure configurations for your endpoints, you should still audit configurations and security controls frequently to identify the inevitable configuration drift. Systems change, new equipment is brought into the network, patches are applied—all contributing to misconfigurations.
Moreover, developers might write flexible firewall rules and create network shares for convenience while building software and leave them unchanged. Sometimes administrators allow configuration changes for testing or troubleshooting purposes and forget to revert to the original state. Also, it’s not uncommon for employees to temporarily disable their anti-virus when it overrides certain actions, like running installers, then forget to re-enable it later. In fact, 21 percent of endpoints have outdated anti-virus/anti-malware.
Are there users in your network who don't change their password? Do your users have administrative privileges by default? Have you enforced secure authentication protocols across your network systems yet? Are you aware of these and other security misconfigurations?
If you're not able to answer these questions, you should re-evaluate your cyberhygiene practices. A simple flaw, like a default password or an open share, can be leveraged by an attacker to thwart an organization's security efforts. High-profile vulnerabilities and zero-days will rear their ugly heads from time to time, so it's necessary to ensure your organization has a secure foundation so it doesn't fall apart from a single vulnerability. Take, for instance, the infamous WannaCry ransomware; it could've easily been prevented from spreading across a network before Microsoft came up with a fix, just by disabling the SMBv1 protocol and setting the firewall rule to block port 445. All this emphasizes the fact that you need to continually maintain secure configurations in your endpoints to ensure a secure foundation.