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What is Security Misconfiguration and Vulnerability Management?

  • Bhumika Dutta
  • Dec 03, 2021
What is Security Misconfiguration and Vulnerability Management? title banner

As we all know, every small or large organization must take care of a variety of cybersecurity issues to keep operations going effectively, and one of the most important areas to address is security. 


Organizations must protect their assets from intruding rivals, particularly digital assets because the majority of information is now stored digitally. Vulnerability and security misconfiguration can occur if security configurations are not properly handled.


So, first, let us learn a little bit about security misconfigurations, and then we'll look at strategies to avoid security misconfigurations and vulnerabilities.


Understanding Security Misconfiguration


Security misconfiguration of any company is the failure of the organization to implement all of the security controls for a server or web application, or the implementation of the security controls with mistakes. 


This might range from neglecting to deactivate default platform functionality, which could allow unauthorized users, such as an attacker, access to failing to set a security header on a webserver. 


Misconfiguration of an application's security can occur at any level, including the web server, database, application server, platform, custom code, and framework.


As written in Outpost24, In 2019, 530,000 data files of Teletext got leaked due to a data breach caused by a security misconfiguration in the Amazon Web Service (AWS) webserver. 


The most common issue that businesses encounter is that these issues are not recognized and repaired early enough following security hygiene best practices that can be achieved by proper security analytics


Even after we believed the work was done, a secure environment constructed by numerous stakeholders (systems administrators, DBAs, or developers) might be left with susceptible gaps, because not all stakeholders are aware of or accountable for protecting the web app and/or infrastructure. 


These security flaws expose the company to serious risks in the future, including hefty penalties and reputational harm. The following are some of the most prevalent misconfigurations:


  • Unpatched systems

  • Default/ out of the box account settings (i.e. usernames and passwords)

  • Unencrypted files

  • Old and out of date web applications

  • Unsecured devices

  • Web application and cloud misconfiguration

  • Insufficient firewall protection

Recognizing these problems is a difficult and critical effort. We've provided a few approaches to spot these misconfigurations.



Why do security misconfigurations occur?


A misconfiguration can be caused by a variety of factors. In their blog, Manage Engine answers this question. 


  • Organizations might easily ignore critical security settings, including new network equipment that may maintain default values, because modern network infrastructures are extremely complex and defined by rapid change. 

  • Even if the organization has established safe endpoint configurations, they should audit configurations and security controls regularly to detect configuration drift. Misconfigurations occur when systems evolve, new equipment is added to the network, and updates are issued.

  • While developing software, developers may construct flexible firewall rules and create network shares for convenience and then leave them alone. Administrators sometimes make configuration modifications for testing or troubleshooting purposes and then forget to restore the previous state. 

  • Employees frequently forget to re-enable their anti-virus when it overrides specific operations, such as installing software and then forget to do so later. In reality, anti-virus and anti-malware software on 21% of endpoints are obsolete.


(Recommended read: Best Data Security Practices)



How to detect security misconfigurations?


Security misconfigurations are very common problems that can occur at any level of the application stack. 


Default configurations that have never been changed and remain insecure, incomplete configurations that were intended to be temporary, and incorrect assumptions about the application's expected network behavior and connectivity requirements are some of the most common misconfigurations in traditional data centers. 


Guardicore has discussed some of the potential misconfigurations. 


  1. There are many technical environments like applications, operating systems, frameworks, etc. Security misconfiguration presents additional dangers for diverse settings without the necessary amount of visibility. If an application's unneeded administrative ports are open, it might be vulnerable to remote assaults.

  2. In a critical environment, outbound connections to numerous internet services might disclose the application's undesired activity.

  3. Some legacy programs are attempting to interface with non-existent applications. To create a connection, attackers might imitate these programs.


Furthermore, web servers frequently have a set of default features that are activated by default, such as QA features, debugging, sample apps, and so on. These characteristics may allow an attacker to bypass security safeguards and obtain access to your customers' or organization's sensitive information by gaining elevated privileges.


To conduct Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks, attackers may try to find misconfigured routines with low concurrency limits or extended timeouts. 


Functions with low concurrency limits may be vulnerable to DoS attacks, as an attacker only needs to call the misconfigured function numerous times before it becomes inaccessible.


To detect the above-mentioned security misconfigurations, one can follow these steps:


  1. Identify resources by scanning hybrid environments and cloud architecture. Make use of built-in services like AWS Trusted Advisor, which provides security checks.

  2. Check to see if we have enough access control in place.

  3. Set up warnings for unusual user behavior or suspected user activities. Unusual behavior might indicate that our setup settings lack proper security safeguards.

  4. Examine the admin console and other areas of the server, network, devices, and application for default settings.


(Suggested reading: What is Cybersecurity Mesh?)



How to prevent Security Misconfiguration and vulnerabilities?


There’s always a saying, “Prevention is better than cure”. Till now, we have discussed steps that can help us in identifying these misconfigurations and ways to deal with them. 


Now, with the help of an article written by cypress data defense, let us list out some effective ways to prevent security misconfiguration.


  1. It's critical to implement a repeatable hardening procedure that makes it simple and quick to deploy another fully prepared environment. For improved security, the development, production, and QA environments should all be configured similarly, but with distinct passwords in each. Automating this process will save time while creating a new secure environment.

  2. It is beneficial to install software updates and patches to each environment regularly. Alternatively, patch a golden image and then deploy it into the environment. The application architecture built by the company should be strong enough to provide security and effective separation of components.

  3. To assist in discovering any security misconfigurations or missing updates and to maintain a well-structured software development cycle, the organization must conduct routine audits and scans regularly. The importance of application security testing throughout the development process cannot be overstated.

  4. Employees play a vital role in the prevention of vulnerabilities. Employees are educated and trained on the relevance of security settings and how they might affect the organization's overall security.

  5. Before incorporating bespoke code into the production environment, run it with a static code security scanner. Security specialists should also do dynamic testing and manual checks.

  6. It is advised that the company should choose a simple platform with no extra features, examples, documentation, or components. Insecure frameworks and useless functionality should be removed or not installed in the first place.

  7. Organizations should examine S3 bucket permissions and other cloud storage rights. As part of the patch management process, they should review and update all security configurations to all security patches, updates, and notes.





A security misconfiguration can have far-reaching repercussions that can compromise an organization's overall security. Regardless of whether or not security measures have been installed, one must periodically monitor and assess the whole infrastructure for any security vulnerabilities that have occurred as a result of misconfigurations.


It is critical to not only stay current with newly released patches for common vulnerabilities but also to establish a continuous testing and monitoring process to be notified about application vulnerabilities and to triage the most serious threats using risk-based intelligence to ensure that imminent threats are discovered before hackers do.


This article talks about security misconfigurations, the causes of these misconfigurations, and ways to detect them. We also learn ways to prevent these misconfigurations, making the overall management of vulnerability easier. 


(Related read: What is Attack Surface Management?)

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