Please Stop Managing Vulnerabilities in Excel Spreadsheets

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Do your best Excel users work in application security? Are you trying to manage thousands of vulnerabilities across hundreds of applications in an increasingly elaborate series of Excel spreadsheets? Most companies are using multiple scanning technologies as well as a variety of manual testing practices and need to have a single view into current open vulnerabilities as well as the ability to report on resolution performance. Excel is a wonderful tool, but it doesn’t always scale. Or, more correctly, application vulnerability management programs can’t scale if they’re based on Excel.
Why not?
  • Merging the results of different reports to de-duplicate vulnerabilities must be done manually and it is time-consuming and error-prone
  • Comparing incremental scans from the same scanner to identify when vulnerabilities appear, disappear and reappear has to be done manually as well
  • Excel only tracks data for a single point in time and doesn’t maintain a usable version history that can be used for reporting. If you want to track when vulnerability states change you have to do it manually. You might be able to keep track of different versions if you store the spreadsheets in SharePoint or a similar system, but that isn’t really a solution.
  • And so on…
So what is to be done? As an industry we need to get better. Folks need to start looking for ways to mature their application vulnerability management practices. And that doesn’t just mean adopting more advanced tools and methods to find vulnerabilities; it also means adopting more tools and practices to manage them to resolution.
That’s why we released ThreadFix. ThreadFix helps address these pain points by:
And the best part about it? It’s free – it is available under the Mozilla Public License and you can download it from Google Code.
Having all of this done across various scanning methods in an automated and tracked manner frees up security analysts to do what they ought to be doing – helping development teams to get the right vulnerabilities addressed as quickly as possible and working with those same teams so they don’t introduce new vulnerabilities into their applications.
Here are a couple of screenshots – compare using ThreadFix with trying to sort this problem out in Excel.
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When you first log in to ThreadFix you see a list of the teams in your organization who are building and fielding software systems. You can also see a summary of the apps managed by each team and currently-open vulnerabilities.
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When you drill into a specific team you can see all of the applications managed by that team as well as some metadata such as where the application is hosted, its risk-ranking and a view into the current set of open vulnerabilities.
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When you look at a specific application you can see all of the open vulnerabilities as well as whether or not they’ve been packaged into a software defect and if they have had virtual patches generated. As has been mentioned before, ThreadFix can import and normalize the results from a bunch of static scanners, dynamic scanners and SaaS scanning services so this gives you a single unified list across your entire portfolio.
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Looking at a specific vulnerability you can see all of the different scanners that have found this vulnerability, when it was found and other useful tracking info. If you’re using Excel to manually merge the results of different scanning tools you’ll really enjoy ThreadFix’s automagic vulnerability merge functionality – it should be a huge timesaver.


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And because all of the scans are tracked inside of ThreadFix you can start to collect metrics on your software security program for free. What vulnerabilities are prevalent for a specific team or application? How long does it take to fix these vulnerabilities? What percentage of the identified vulnerabilities have you actually fixed? Let’s see Excel do that!
dan _at_

Posted via email from Denim Group’s Posterous

About Dan Cornell

A globally recognized application security expert, Dan Cornell holds over 15 years of experience architecting, developing and securing web-based software systems. As the Chief Technology Officer and a Principal at Denim Group, Ltd., he leads the technology team to help Fortune 500 companies and government organizations integrate security throughout the development process. He is also the original creator of ThreadFix, Denim Group's industry leading application vulnerability management platform.
More Posts by Dan Cornell

2 Responses to “Please Stop Managing Vulnerabilities in Excel Spreadsheets”

  1. Frank Willenburg

    Greetings, I lost Dan’s contact information. I’d love to reconnect and catch up. I’m currently the Lead for Security on the Department of Education and am interested in your vulnerability management tool posted out here as well as your training. Mostly wanted to catch up with Dan if possible. Thanks!

    • Dan Cornell

      My email is dan _at_ denimgroup _dot_ com. I’ll reach out via email as well.

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