Contributed by George Mack, Content Marketing Manager, Check Point Software.

What is a cyber security vulnerability?

A cyber security vulnerability is a weakness in a computer system that malicious actors exploit to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data or resources. These vulnerabilities can exist in various aspects of a system, and can be found in hardware or software. People are also often considered a vulnerability in their own right.

As cyber security continues to evolve, so do the threats to organizations, making it increasingly important for companies to be aware of and protect against potential vulnerabilities.

Is a vulnerability a threat?

It’s important to note that the terms vulnerability and threat have different meanings yet are often used interchangeably.

A vulnerability is a weakness, but it may not have been exploited by a threat actor yet. A threat is the act of exploiting the security vulnerability.

Unfortunately, most organizations have vulnerabilities. The good news? You can remediate most of them with proper planning and investigation. But before you can fix them, you need to know what vulnerabilities to look for in the first place. Below is a list that will help you get started.

6 dangerous cyber security vulnerabilities

1. Your employees. It’s often said that humans are the weakest link, and unfortunately, it’s true. 91% of all cyber attacks begin with a phishing email, making employees your biggest cyber security risk.

On the bright side, this means your employees can be your best defense against cyber attacks. Security awareness training can equip your employees with the skills they need to detect and report any type of phishing threat. These training programs have been found to improve password security by an estimated 30-50%, while reducing the cost of phishing attacks by more than 50%.

2. Misconfiguration. Misconfigurations are the biggest threat to cloud security. They occur when cloud services are not properly configured, when security settings are not properly set, or when users have access to resources that they should not have access to. These misconfigurations can lead to unauthorized access to sensitive information, data breaches, and other malicious activities. For example, in 2021, a variety of cloud misconfigurations led to the potential exposure of over 100 million users of Android applications.

In relation to this incident, Check Point Research discovered a 48% growth in cloud-based networks attacks – with one of the primary reasons being misconfigurations. As such, it is essential for organizations to ensure that their cloud services are properly configured and that their security settings are up to date to protect their data and systems from potential threats.

3. Zero day. A zero-day vulnerability is one that is discovered by threat actors before a patch is made available. For example, the infamous Log4j exploit allowed threat actors to infiltrate remote systems and execute malware. Some security solutions, such as Check Point’s Infinity Platform, pre-emptively protected against Log4j. By adhering to regulatory compliance and best practices, companies can reduce their exposure to zero-day attacks.

4. Outdated or unpatched software. When an application is out of date, software vendors will release updates to address known issues or patch vulnerabilities. Having an unpatched system makes you an easy target for cyber criminals.

Because companies manage multiple software applications – and are often overburdened by a myriad of tasks – it can be easy to fall behind on updates and patching. To combat this issue, companies should create standard procedures for updating and patching their software and applications.

5. Unauthorized access. Breaches are often the result of threat actors compromising an employee’s account and gaining access to the company’s network. Identity-based threats are a real issue, necessitating the need for measures such as multi-factor authentication (MFA).

To address this, businesses should adopt Zero Trust – or a “never trust, always verify, enforce least privilege” approach – to users attempting to gain access from inside or outside the network. Only authorized users, bolstered by additional identity verification measures, should have the necessary permissions to carry out tasks within certain applications, systems, and other areas.

6. APIs. Application programing interfaces, or APIs, allow applications to communicate with other applications over the internet. While APIs aren’t malicious themselves, an IT team may accidentally grant excessive data exposure to certain API functions – allowing unauthorized users to gain access to sensitive data and systems.

How to protect against vulnerabilities

The best way to protect against vulnerabilities is to perform a security checkup.  A security checkup will help you identify your weakest security areas and recommend appropriate measures to mitigate risks. After an analysis of your network and systems, you’ll typically receive a report that reveals:

  • The number of malware infections on the system
  • Usage of high-risk web applications
  • Intrusion attempts
  • Vulnerabilities to endpoints, mobile devices, and other vectors
  • Recommendations for how to to protect your network

Check Point provides free security checkups to ensure you have maximum protection. Sign up today for an immediate analysis.