Compliance Policies are used by companies, organizations, or authorities to check whether all products, applications, operating systems and other components used meet certain specifications. The Center for Internet Security (CIS) provides so-called CIS benchmarks for this purpose. Since March 2021, the Greenbone solutions also offer the possibility to check the fulfillment of CIS Benchmarks – with the help of new compliance policies.

But what do we actually mean by a compliance policy?

In addition to legal requirements, companies, organizations and authorities often have their own requirements that must be met for the secure configuration of a system. Such requirements can be formulated, for example, by a software or application vendor for its own products, but also by IT security organizations.

The aim is to ensure the information and data security of a company or an authority by guaranteeing the confidentiality, integrity, availability and authenticity of information.

All specifications and guidelines, but also recommendations to be fulfilled for this purpose, are bundled in a policy in written form.

These guidelines form the basis for compliance policies developed by Greenbone Networks, i.e., for the collection of tests that a Greenbone solution runs on a target system. A vulnerability test is developed for each individual requirement or recommendation to check compliance with that requirement or recommendation. All tests are combined to scan configurations by Greenbone Networks and added to the Greenbone Security Feed.

Since the scan configurations in this case map company or authority guidelines, they are referred to as “compliance policies”.

Example: A company issues a policy with the following requirements:

  • Version 2 of software A is installed on the target system
  • SSH is enabled on the target system
  • Software B is not installed on the target system

For each of the requirements, Greenbone Networks develops a vulnerability test that queries whether the respective condition is met.

The three tests are then combined into a compliance policy that a user of Greenbone solutions can select for running a vulnerability scan. During the scan, it is then checked whether the conditions listed above are met on the target system.

 CIS Benchmarks as decisive security guidelines

The Center for Internet Security (CIS) also publishes such security guidelines: the so-called CIS Benchmarks. CIS is a non-profit organization founded in 2000 to provide best practices for IT security that are used by governments, industry and academia.

One of the largest fields of activity of the organization is the so-called CIS Benchmarks. These are recommendations for handling and configuring numerous products from a wide range of product families. For example, there are CIS benchmarks for web browsers such as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome, for operating systems like Microsoft Windows or different Linux distributions, but also for the Microsoft Office products.

In contrast to many other security standards, which only make basic specifications regarding IT security – for example, that there must be vulnerability management – the CIS benchmarks are very detailed. They provide requirements that must be met in order to harden a system, i.e. make it more secure and protect it against attacks. Among other things, this can include criteria for passwords, but also the specification for a certain installed software version.

The CIS Benchmarks are provided by CIS free of charge as a PDF and are constantly being expanded. For CIS SecureSuite Members – just like Greenbone Networks is since 2021 – the CIS Benchmarks are also available via the CIS Workbench in other formats, for example for Microsoft Word or Excel.

CIS-certified Compliance Policies at Greenbone Networks

As with the security policies of other companies, organizations or authorities, Greenbone Networks has now developed own compliance policies based on the CIS benchmarks. These enable users of a Greenbone solution to check their networks, systems and applications against the requirements from the CIS benchmarks. Since March 2021, several compliance policies that map CIS benchmarks are included in the Greenbone Security Feed.

And the special thing about it: the compliance policies developed by Greenbone Networks are certified by CIS! This means that users can be sure that their system is tested according to the hardening recommendations of CIS.

Users can now check their systems to see whether the CIS requirements are met. This also simplifies the preparation of audits. Important criteria can already be checked in advance with a scan by a greenbone solution and any weaknesses found can be eliminated.

But these CIS certified compliance policies will not be the end of the story. Many more policies that map CIS Benchmarks are in the planning or even already in development at Greenbone Networks.

The water sector is one of the critical infrastructures (CRITIS). A successful attack on the sector can lead to significant hygiene and health problems and, in the worst case, threaten human lives. At the 6th VDI conference on “Optimizing Industrial Wastewater Treatment Plants”, Greenbone Networks will provide information on cyber resilience in the water sector and how it can be achieved by identifying and eliminating vulnerabilities at an early stage.

Everything Fine Thanks to Digitization?

Digitization is seen as the savior of the hour. Even if this may be viewed critically at times, this development cannot be stopped. There are simply too many reasons in favor of digitization. But there are also many reasons that we need to take a critical look at, especially where our security is concerned. The more information technology we put in place, the more digitized attack surfaces we offer.
Malicious users of these attack surfaces can operate globally, and likewise digitized currencies like Bitcoin allow them to profit from vulnerabilities globally as well.

Unlike a bank robbery, an attack on an industrial wastewater facility is more of a a means to an end. The attacker does not want the contents of a safe, but rather targets the vulnerability as such in order to gain advantages, usually through blackmail. Not only technical systems themselves are attacked, but often also the technical and organizational environment from networks to administration. These attackers are not hackers with hoodies and matrix screen savers who just happen to have emergency on their account, but criminal organizations that are industrially and professionally organized. We must arm ourselves against them with resilient organizations, processes and solutions. This brings the topic of cyber resilience more and more to our attention.

Cyber resilience is the ability of a company or organization to maintain its business processes despite adverse cyber circumstances. These can be cyber attacks, but also unintentional obstacles such as a failed software update or human error. Cyber resilience is a comprehensive concept that goes beyond IT security. It combines the areas of information security, business continuity, and organizational resilience. To achieve a state of cyber resilience, it is important to identify vulnerabilities early, prioritize them economically, and eliminate them.

Why Cyber Resilience Is Particularly Important for Critical Infrastructures

Sustainable cyber resilience is important for companies in all industries. But it is indispensable in the area of critical infrastructure (CRITIS). As defined by the German government, this includes “organizations or facilities of critical importance to the state community, the failure or impairment of which would result in sustained supply shortages, significant disruptions to public safety, or other dramatic consequences.”

CRITIS organizations must therefore protect themselves particularly well against cyber attacks – this is required by law. The EU launched the European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection (EPCIP) back in 2006 and expanded and supplemented it in subsequent years. Member states are implementing the EU NIS directive in national law, Germany for instance with the IT Security Act (IT-SIG). Large economic nations have already developed regulatory bodies. In the U.S., for example, this is the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and in Germany the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI).

In Germany, the critical infrastructures are divided into 9 sectors. One of these is the water sector with the divisions of public water supply and wastewater disposal. It includes, for example, waterworks, pumping stations, water pipelines and networks, wastewater treatment plants, the sewerage system, and dam and flood protection facilities. They all play a critical role in our society.

Attacks on the water supply could therefore hit a society to the core and, in the worst case, threaten human lives. Attacks on the wastewater disposal system are just as dangerous. If it no longer functions, the result would be considerable hygienic and health problems. Since the water infrastructure uses many IT systems and electronic control systems (ICS) nowadays, it becomes an attractive target for hackers.

Incidents Show the Vulnerability of the Water Sector

In recent years, there have been numerous attacks on water infrastructures worldwide. Fortunately, there have been no serious consequences so far. However, the attacks show that hackers are exploring how to take control of control systems and prepare further attacks. In 2013, for example, Iranian hackers attempted to penetrate the systems of the Bowman Avenue Dam near the town of Rye Brooke, near New York. The dam is used to control the flow of water after heavy rains and prevent flooding of the town. The hackers managed to gain control over the flood gates’ control system. However, as these were currently offline due to maintenance, the cyber criminals were fortunately unable to cause any damage.

In March 2016, security specialist Verizon reported a cyber attack on a U.S. water utility known by the pseudonym Kemuri Water Company in its monthly Security Breach Report. Hackers had penetrated the SCADA platform. This allowed them to manipulate programmable logic controllers. They changed settings on the water flow and the amount of chemicals added for water treatment. Fortunately, the water utility quickly discovered the incident and was able to correct the settings without causing any major damage. For their attack, the hackers exploited an unpatched vulnerability in the customer payment portal.

Between November 2016 and January 2017, cyber criminals hacked several wireless routers at a U.S. water agency. The routers were used to provide secure wireless access for pump station monitoring. Fortunately, however, the attackers were not looking to sabotage, but were targeting the agency’s Internet resources. Their bill rose from an average of $ 300 per month to a whopping $ 45,000 in December and $ 53,000 in January. For their attack, the hackers exploited a vulnerability in the routers of the manufacturer Sixnet. According to its own information, Sixnet had already made a patch available in May, but the authority had not installed it.

Over the past year, Israel has been the victim of multiple cyber attacks on water supply and treatment facilities. In April, hackers undertook a major cyber attack on control and monitoring systems at wastewater treatment plants, pumping stations and sewers, the Israeli National Cyber Directorate (INCD) said in a statement. The INCD then demanded companies in the water sector to change passwords for all systems connected to the Internet-connected systems and to ensure that control system software is up-to-date. The hackers attempted to change the chlorine content of water at a water treatment plant. The attack was not successful. Had it been, it could have resulted in mild intoxication of the population served by the treatment plant. Back in June, there were two more attacks on Israel’s water facilities. This time, agricultural water pumps were affected.

Although there has not yet been a comparable incident in Germany, the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) reports about the implementation of the necessary organizational and technical precautions to prevent disruptions in its current report on the state of IT security in Germany. In the water sector, this reveals deficiencies in the areas of network separation, emergency management and physical security. In the reporting period from June 2019 to May 2020, there were several incidents in the water sector in Germany that were due to faults in control components. Remediation of the malfunctions was very lengthy and costly. Damage was avoided by operators acting prudently and having redundancies in place.

Attack Points in the Water Sector

IT and OT systems support the water cycle. In water production (1), quality control systems and digital pump control are used to manage water inflow from various sources towards water distribution (2). Digital metering and control methods monitor water pressure and quality in the water network and are thus part of the overall IT attack surface. In sewage systems (3), wastewater pumps and pre-treatments by filters, which are monitored at central points, are used. Water treatment (4) is a critical component due to the necessary digitalized control of physical, chemical and biological processes.

Many networked IT systems and industrial control systems are therefore used in drinking water supply and wastewater disposal, enabling largely automated processes. Examples include sensors for temperature, flow rate, or chlorine content, remotely readable meters, and web portals and mobile apps for customers.

Challenges for Cyber Resilience in the Water Sector

To achieve a state of sustainable cyber resilience, water sector organizations must consider the full range of networked systems, devices and applications.

But this is not always easy. One problem is that the ICSs used in the water infrastructure come from different generations. Many of the older control systems were developed at a time when little or no consideration was given to cyber security. This leads to a heterogeneous, vulnerable IT landscape. Additionally, the high degree of automation and dependence on industrial controls makes water infrastructure particularly vulnerable to attack. Furthermore, the IT systems in use are becoming increasingly complex. This makes it difficult for companies to achieve a sufficient level of protection. The increasing networking of components within the field and control level as well as the control and process control technology increases the complexity even further.  At the same time, this increases the attack surface for hackers. They have more and more opportunities to penetrate networks, steal data or manipulate industrial controls.

Even Previously Unexploited Vulnerabilities Should Not Be Underestimated

A recent study by Kenna Security found that the total number of vulnerabilities discovered per year has increased from 4,100 in 2011 to 17,500 in 2021. On the other hand, the percentage of vulnerabilities exploited by hackers has not grown at the same rate. What is the reason for this?

Cyber crime follows the same economic rules as any other business model: least investment for maximum result. But cyber crime also suffers from the same problem as the IT industry in general: experts are a limited resource.

Companies cannot change this initial situation, but they can ensure that their attack surface is reduced. Tolerating a large attack surface, even if the vulnerabilities are not yet weaponized, is replacing control with gambling. As soon as it seems cheaper for cyber criminals or the outcome is promising, cyber crime will focus on vulnerabilities that are not yet weaponized, and the conversion of vulnerabilities into weapons will happen quickly.

Even worse is the motivation of cyber terrorists, who have so far been fortunately unsuccessful due to a lack of expertise. It is unclear whether they will gain the necessary skills and if so, when. But they do not follow the rules of economics, which makes them less predictable in selecting targets and suitable weaponized vulnerabilities.

In essence, there are two good general reasons why organizations should establish a process to manage and minimize their entire attack surface and not just focus on current (or likely) weaponizable vulnerabilities:

  • Pandemic risk: while it may not be attractive for a single criminal organization to invest in turning a more expensive vulnerability into a weapon, the more organizations choose not to do anything about that vulnerability, the more interesting it becomes. The fewer that are vaccinated, the better the pandemic spreads.
  • Automation risk: automating exploits is not only an attractive, cost-effective way to go. It significantly reduces the window of opportunity to respond with countermeasures.

Reduced Attack Surface with Vulnerability Management

Regardless of how many vulnerabilities exist, managing damage and actively countering ongoing attacks becomes exponentially expensive for organizations if not accompanied by an ongoing process that identifies, manages and reduces the attack surface.

Cyber resilience is a continuous process. It strengthens an organization’s ability to withstand an attack and enables it to continue to function during an attack. To achieve this, it is important to reduce the attack surface and thus stabilize the base. This means identifying vulnerabilities that could be exploited by an attacker and thus staying one step ahead of the attacker.

999 out of 1,000 vulnerabilities have been known for over a year. With vulnerability management, this means that these vulnerabilities can be identified and eliminated before they are exploited by an attacker. This greatly reduces the attack surface of the IT infrastructure.

Vulnerability management systems are fully automated and, thanks to features such as schedules and custom scan configurations, offer users the ability to create complete vulnerability management processes that constantly scan for vulnerabilities. As a result, vulnerability management ensures more resilient systems in the long term.

The integration of macmon NAC with the Greenbone Security Manager creates a fast-acting, fully automated security concept. New devices or devices that are absent from the network for a longer period of time are automatically detected by macmon NAC and then checked for vulnerabilities by the Greenbone Security Manager. Learn more about the partnership between Greenbone Networks and macmon secure here.

Available as a physical and virtual appliance, the Greenbone Professional Edition, based on the Greenbone Security Manager (GSM), identifies security vulnerabilities in corporate IT and assesses their risk potential. In addition, the GSM recommends measures for remediating any found vulnerabilities.

The goal is to identify points of attack before cyber criminals do and thus prevent attacks. After all, practical experience shows that 999 out of 1,000 exploited vulnerabilities were already known for more than 12 months and could therefore have been closed. The solution includes a daily security update of the vulnerability tests that are run to detect the vulnerabilities. Currently, over 87,000 vulnerability tests are available. The GSM is now used in over 50,000 professional installations and integrations across all industries and company sizes. The turnkey appliance is based on open source software and can be deployed in a very short time.

Greenbone Networks has been a technology partner of macmon secure GmbH since 2018.

How does the technical partnership between macmon and Greenbone Networks work?

macmon NAC ensures that any new end devices are scanned for malware by the GSM when they are added to the corporate network and regularly evaluates the compliance status in order to protect the network. Christian Bücker, Managing Director of macmon secure GmbH, explains: „It is vital that a corporate network be scanned regularly to maintain IT security. The result of this scan is provided by GSM and evaluated at regular intervals by macmon NAC. If the device complies with company policies, it will be permitted to access the corporate network. If the device does not comply with the policies, macmon NAC can isolate the endpoint by means of a configurable response or disconnect it from the network and notify the administrator. This ensures that network access control is fully compliant at all times.“

macmon NAC recognizes new and known endpoints and initiates scans

New devices are constantly being added to a corporate network. An administrator usually ensures that a new device is not infected with malicious code and does not pose a threat to data integrity or network security. macmon NAC detects a new endpoint when it is connected to the network and instructs the GSM to perform a scan. Depending on the result of this scan, access is either granted or denied.

macmon NAC also detects a known endpoint and initiates a scan by the GSM if the device has been disconnected from the network for too long. Some endpoints cannot be scanned regularly because they are not permanently connected to the corporate network.

For example, an employee in the field can be away from home for days or weeks. When the employee returns home, the endpoint reconnects to the corporate network, macmon NAC detects the device and instructs the GSM to perform a scan. The result of this scan is provided by the GSM: if the device complies with company policies, it will be permitted to access the corporate network.If it is not, macmon NAC can isolate the end device with a configured response, just as it would for a new end device, and again notify the administrator.

macmon NAC thus regularly checks the integrity of new and temporarily disconnected endpoints, according to the time period specified by the user.

The CEOs of macmon secure and Greenbone Networks confirm the benefits of the partnership for the security of their customers

Dr. Jan-Oliver Wagner, CEO and co-founder of Greenbone Networks: „Both macmon and Greenbone pay attention to fast, fully automated response to ensure compliance with security policies. Attackers also use automation. We counter them with an individual system team acting according to customer specifications. Potential attack surfaces are quickly and specifically isolated, checked and released. Even at 2 a.m. at night. The strengths of both companies complement each other perfectly to ensure the greatest possible security for customers.“

Christian Bücker, Managing Director of macmon secure, comments: „The great advantage of this integration is that as soon as macmon NAC detects the presence of an endpoint, a scan is carried out immediately and fully automatically. If the device is not compliant, macmon NAC is informed directly and responds immediately and automatically with a device lockout or quarantine. The key to success is fast, automatic responses without the need for administrator intervention. By combining the strengths of the two solutions, the security concept will naturally be enhanced. Macmon NAC is able to detect new devices added to the network very quickly and enforce security rules on behalf of Greenbone where it is not able to enforce these rules itself. Greenbone, on the other hand, is highly adept at identifying vulnerabilities, which is not macmon’s area of expertise.“

Integrating the Greenbone Security Manager with macmon NAC is easily done through macmon NAC’s web interface.

Are there actually independent reviews of Greenbone Networks solutions?
Of course – we are proud to present the latest report from a leading industry magazine: “IT-Administrator tried the system [solution from Greenbone Networks] and was thrilled with its functionality”. (IT Administrator 01/2021)

In September 2020, the magazine IT-Administrator – a German professional journal for system and network administration – asked Greenbone Networks if they could write a test report about a Greenbone appliance.

The report is currently published in the January issue of the magazine. Here you can read the detailed report.

In the test, IT-Administrator took a closer look at the Greenbone Security Manager 150. The GSM 150 is a physical appliance designed for vulnerability management in small to medium-sized businesses, or organizations with medium-sized branch offices. It scans up to 500 IP addresses within 24 hours and can also be used as a sensor for larger appliances.

Everything that must be done in a standard deployment of a Greenbone Security Manager was tested: from the initial setup via the console, to configuring scans on the web interface, to evaluating a scan report.

For testing the vulnerability scans, IT-Administrator had prepared different target systems with different security status to examine the differences in the results. Authenticated scans were also part of the test.

Read the full article here (German only).

With the help of compliance policies, a company can check whether all components integrated in the system meet the required specifications. The increasing digitalization and the associated growth of new technologies create opportunities, but also risks. For this reason, the demands on compliance are increasing as well. With GOS 20.08, all compliance policies were made available via the Greenbone Security Feed and four new compliance policies were added: TLS-Map, BSI TR-03116: Part 4, Huawei Datacom Product Security Configuration Audit Guide and Windows 10 Security Hardening.

Compliance policies for different industries

What is a compliance policy anyway?

In addition to legal requirements, companies and public authorities often have their own guidelines that must be met for the secure configuration of a system. The aim is to ensure the information security of the company or authority by guaranteeing the confidentiality, integrity, availability and authenticity of information.

All specifications and guidelines that are necessary for this are summarized in one document to form a policy.

Based on the individual criteria of the guidelines, Greenbone Networks develops vulnerability tests – roughly speaking: one criterion results in one vulnerability test. Greenbone Networks combines these tests into a scan configuration.

Such scan configurations, which reflect policies of companies or authorities, are called Compliance Policies.

Example: a company releases a security policy with the following requirements:

  • Version 2 of software A is installed on the target system
  • SSH is activated on the target system
  • Software B is not installed on the target system

Greenbone Networks develops a vulnerability test for each of the requirements, which checks whether the respective condition is fulfilled.

The three tests are then combined into a compliance policy that a user of the Greenbone solutions can choose when performing a vulnerability test. During the scan, it is checked whether the conditions mentioned above are met on the target system.

New: distribution of compliance policies via the Greenbone Security Feed

Starting with GOS 20.08, all standard scan configurations, reports formats, port lists, and compliance policies of Greenbone Networks are distributed via the Greenbone Security Feed.

Among other things, this allows the publication and distribution of scan configurations for current, hot vulnerability tests. In the past, these were published as XML files for manual download on the Greenbone download website and had to be imported by the users themselves – which was very tedious and left room for mistakes, making a quick application hardly possible.

But this is not the only advantage. It also makes troubleshooting much easier and faster for the customer: objects can be updated and, if necessary, fixed for all setups with a single feed update.

In addition to this innovation, the Greenbone Security Feed has been extended by some important compliance policies.

More Compliance Policies in the Greenbone Security Feed

Four new compliance policies were added to the Greenbone Security Feed in the 4th quarter 2020:

  • TLS-Map
  • BSI TR-03116: Part 4
  • Huawei Datacom Product Security Configuration Audit Guide
  • Windows 10 Security Hardening

About the Special Scan Configuration TLS-Map

Note: TLS-Map is a scan configuration for special scans that are different from vulnerability scans. For reasons of simplicity, this special scan configuration is listed in this article along with the compliance policies.

The special scan configuration TLS-Map is helpful wherever secure communication over the Internet is required. TLS – short for Transport Layer Security – is a protocol for the secure transmission of data on the Internet. It is the successor of SSL – Secure Sockets Layer – which is why both protocols are still often used synonymously today. However, all SSL versions and TLS versions prior to version 1.2 have been outdated since 2020 at the latest and are therefore insecure.

The largest area of application for TLS is data transfer via the World Wide Web (WWW), for example between a web browser as the client and a server such as Other areas of application are in e-mail traffic and in the transfer of files via File Transport Protocol (FTP).

The special scan configuration TLS-Map checks whether the required TLS version is available on the target system and whether the required encryption algorithms – so-called ciphers – are offered.

About the Compliance Policy BSI TR-03116: Part 4

The Technical Guideline BSI TR-03116 Cryptographic Requirements for Federal Projects from the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) is used for Federal Government projects. This means that if a federal project should be implemented, this guideline must be fulfilled. It consists of 5 parts in total:

  • Part 1: Telematic infrastructure
  • Part 2: Sovereign identification documents
  • Part 3: Intelligent measuring systems
  • Part 4: Communications procedures in applications
  • Part 5: Applications of the Secure Element API

The compliance policy, which Greenbone Network has developed accordingly, checks whether the contents of the fourth part of the policy are fulfilled. This part contains requirements for communication procedures.

The compliance policy BSI TR-03116: Part 4 in the Greenbone Security Feed tests the three main requirements – minimum TLS version as well as necessary and not legitimate ciphers – of the technical guideline.

About the Compliance Policy Huawei Datacom Product Security Configuration Audit Guide

Compliance policies for Huawei solutions have been part of the Greenbone Security Feed for quite some time.

Greenbone Networks had already developed compliance policies for the following two solutions:

  • EulerOS: Linux operating system, based on CentOS
    Related compliance Policy: EulerOS Linux Security Configuration
  • GaussDB: database management system (DBMS)
    Related compliance policy: GaussDB 100 V300R001C00 Security Hardening Guide

With a compliance policy for Huawei Datacom, a product category that also includes routers and switches with their own operating system, a third compliance policy for solutions developed by Huawei is added now.

For all three products – Huawei Datacom, EulerOS and GaussDB – there are security configurations that were specified by Huawei. Based on these configurations, Greenbone Networks has developed compliance policies which check the compliance with those security configurations. The different compliance policies are always applied if the corresponding solution is available on the target system.

For Huawei Datacom, Huawei distributes the Huawei Datacom Product Security Configuration Audit Guide. The associated, newly developed compliance policy tests, for example, whether the correct versions of SSH and SNMP are available on the target system.

About the Compliance Policy Windows 10 Security Hardening

The compliance policy Windows 10 Security Hardening includes vulnerability tests to evaluate the hardening of Windows 10 according to industry standards.

Among other things, the compliance policy checks different password specifications such as age, length and complexity of the password, specifications for the assignments of user rights, and requirements for different system devices.

Even faster integration of compliance policies with GOS 20.08

As digitalization continues, compliance requirements are growing in companies of all sizes and in all industries.

Through the direct integration of compliance policies via the Greenbone Security Feed and the inclusion of new compliance policies, the testing of target systems is even more efficient, easier and quicker, thus increasing the protection of the IT infrastructure without the need for special compliance know-how. Of course, we continue to work on new compliance policies on an ongoing basis. So be curious!

As the world of technology grows ever more complex and cybercriminals become more aggressive and exploitative in their tactics, those in positions of responsibility can no longer rely on the traditional IT security protection wall around their corporate networks to ward off cyber threats. Sooner or later an attacker will find a way in and from there it is a matter of containing the damage as much as possible and maintaining core business processes in order to continue providing customers with products and services. These practices are not sustainable and for us at Greenbone, the future of IT security is cyber resilience.

Cyber resilience is on everyone’s lips – the media, businesses, manufacturers and even governments are talking about this successor to classic IT security with increasing intensity. But what exactly is cyber resilience? How can it be implemented? What distinguishes organisations that are already resistant to cyberattacks? We at Greenbone got to the bottom of these questions with a large-scale global study alongside Frost & Sullivan. The results are now available in a report which you can read here.  Below we look at the key objectives and findings of the study:

Cyber Resilience

Core mission of the study: identify resilience characteristics

We have been working intensively in the field of cyber resilience for several years, but what makes it so important? What challenges do organisations in different industries face? Which best practices should the follow? We looked for the answers to these questions as part of the study with Frost & Sullivan.  Indeed, one of our main objectives was to identify particularly resilient organisations and analyse what distinguishes them from less resilient ones. In this way, we hope to offer companies concrete recommendations that they can act on in order to make their operations more resilient. We’ll also use what we’ve learned to further develop our proven vulnerability management technology, which we have recently started offering as a managed service.

Discovery of major data leak in the healthcare sector changed focus of the research

The report pays special attention to those organisations that form part of the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI), from water and energy to finance and healthcare. In the event of a cyberattack, CNI organisations have to take into consideration not only economic losses and reputational damage, but they also have to look at how it will impact wider society and, in extreme cases, if human lives are at risk. For example, if medical equipment is compromised or the power supply to a hospital fails, the knock-on effects could be disastrous. We therefore wanted to enhance the study with real-life examples from the CNI sectors.

As we were searching for examples, we revealed something much larger than we could have imagined: a huge data leak in the healthcare sector, with millions of patient records and associated medical images were freely accessible via a weakness in the PACS (Picture Archiving and Communication Systems) servers. No programming or coding knowledge was necessary to access what included complete medical histories with personal data such as the patient’s name, date of birth, and the attending physician, fully visible.

This discovery was so significant, we couldn’t possibly ignore it. We quickly shifted our focus to help restrict free access to this patient data as quickly as possible, working alongside authorities and IT security specialists around the globe. In cooperation with Bayerischer Rundfunk in Germany and the US investigative platform ProPublica, we helped explain the true extent of the problem. So far we have been very successful in removing access to this patent data, yet some 400 PACS systems are still connected to the Internet, making the patient data stored on them accessible to everyone. For this reason, we continue to maintain close contact with the relevant authorities. Our report on the patient data leak can be downloaded here.

A few key findings

In addition to our work in the healthcare sector, we also reviewed organisations from the energy, finance, telecommunications, transport and water sectors in the report. In total, we surveyed 370 organisations with an average of 13,500 employees from the five largest economies in the world: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Japan and Germany. From this wide-ranging perspective, we were able to obtain answers to our core questions as well as some other interesting findings:

US companies are at the forefront of cyber resilience:

On average, only 36% of the organisations surveyed were highly cyber resilient. The USA scored highest with 50%, European companies came in around the average, and Japanese organisations were at the lowest end of the scale with only 22%.

Transport sector least resistant to cyberattacks:

Across all the countries surveyed, financial and telecoms organisations (46%) were best equipped against cyberattacks. They were followed by the water (36%), health (34%) and energy (32%) sectors, yet only 22% of transport organisations have achieved a high level of cyber resilience.

Understanding business processes is more important than budget considerations:

Whilst it’s true that the cyber resilient organisations we identified have on average a larger profit turnover and a higher IT budget, the detailed analysis in the study revealed that this is by no means decisive. What we discovered is that a fundamental understanding of the business processes and an awareness of business-critical digital resources play a far more crucial role in organisations being cyber resilient.

Eleven characteristics that distinguish cyber resilient organisations:

In our study we were able to identify three groups of characteristics that increase the cyber resilience of organisations by a factor of two, three and six. From this, we developed a “roadmap” with which organisations can increase their level of IT maturity and create a high level of cyber resilience.

You can download the Exec Summary and request for complete report, including the roadmap here:

Osnabrück, March 13, 2020 – Vulnerability management specialist, Greenbone Networks, today announced it has appointed Elmar Geese to the newly created role of Chief Operating Officer (COO). Geese, who joins the company’s senior management team, will play a key role in Greenbone’s future growth, overseeing the company’s expanding operations.

Geese will take responsibility for Greenbone’s overall corporate strategy as well as process optimisation within the company. He will also focus on adding value to Greenbone’s range of products by, for example, making its vulnerability management solution available as a managed service, so it is more accessible to companies that do not have the in-house capabilities or resources to deploy and manage their own hardware.

“With its solutions for intelligent vulnerability management, Greenbone has the potential to develop from a European market leader to a global player,” said Geese. “The security of information systems is fundamental for companies and our modern society, demonstrated by the many security incidents we now witness every day. Greenbone plays a decisive role in making our world safer and I look forward to taking a major part in this.”

Geese has over three decades of experience within the IT sector, working as founder, manager and consultant. Most recently, he was CIO at the Berlin health start-up machtfit, where he was responsible for the company’s SaaS platform for occupational health management. As head of product development and operations, he also contributed to the long-term acquisition of customers such as Bayer AG, Deutsche Bahn, Lufthansa, Edeka and Lanxess.

“We are thrilled to welcome Elmar onto the Greenbone team,” said Jan-Oliver Wagner, Greenbone founder and CEO. “As we continue to grow, it’s essential that we have someone to support us at management level with a capable head for business and a strong entrepreneurial background. Elmar offers just that, and we are very much looking forward to working with him and are confident that with him on board, we will easily master the tasks that accompany rapid company growth.”