What is Vulnerability Management, and How Does it Work?

The cyclical process of locating, categorizing, prioritizing, and fixing software vulnerabilities in enterprise systems and applications is known as vulnerability management. It helps organizations avoid costly cyber attacks and data breaches that result from unpatched flaws.

Using a vulnerability management tool, teams perform regular scans to identify software issues and misconfigurations. These tools typically provide a risk rating or score for each detected vulnerability.

Identifying Vulnerabilities

A vulnerability is a flaw that cyber attackers can exploit to access restricted systems and steal or destroy data. Keeping an organization’s infrastructure safe from attacks requires vigilant scanning, strategic prioritization, and proactive remediation. That’s where vulnerability management comes in.

Vulnerability management is a cyclical process that continuously identifies, assesses, prioritizes, and resolves vulnerabilities across an IT environment. It includes the operating system (OS), cloud and on-premises enterprise applications, and browsers. It also involves the configuration of OS and application security settings for optimum protection.

The first step in this process is identifying all the vulnerabilities within an IT estate using automated scanning tools. It lists software errors ranked by severity, usually according to the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS). CISOs may then analyze this data and use it to identify trends that require continuous monitoring or to justify additional staff or tools. This data might also be used for reporting to stakeholders, including board members and customers.

Prioritizing Vulnerabilities

Once vulnerabilities are identified, a team must prioritize them for remediation. This process reduces your attack surface and minimizes the risk of data breaches, service disruptions, compliance violations, reputational damage, and legal liabilities.

Vulnerability prioritization helps your security teams allocate resources efficiently to fix the most critical vulnerabilities first. It evaluates each vulnerability based on its severity, exploitability, and business impact. It also considers the availability of patches, technological windows in which they can be installed, and the available human resources to perform the patching.

To make the best decisions, your security teams should have a common language and decision criteria for vulnerability management. It can only be achieved by combining security operations, IT operations, and system administration teams to form a vulnerability management process shared across your entire organization. It will help to ensure that all teams have the same understanding of your risks and goals, regardless of their role or level in the company.

Remediating Vulnerabilities

Once identified, vulnerabilities must be remedied to reduce the overall attack surface. It can be done through patching or reconfiguration, depending on the nature of the vulnerability and the impact on business operations.

The best approach is to apply patches as soon as they become available, ideally using automation solutions. Threat actors study patches and quickly create exploits for them, so having an automated process that automatically retrieves and applies fixes is important.

A strong policy defining the vulnerability management process and setting clear stakeholder objectives can drive improvements and success. It can also mitigate the risk of human error that could lead to a missed patch or slow response time.

Given the ever-growing number of applications, software, devices, and services that operate in most modern businesses, it may be impossible to remove every vulnerability fully. However, a strong program can use business and threat intelligence to prioritize those that pose the most risk to your company and focus on them first.

Monitoring Vulnerabilities

Modern enterprises are rooted in technology, which is why it’s so important to manage vulnerabilities to prevent data breaches, loss of productivity, and denial of service attacks. Vulnerability management allows organizations to detect and respond to hardware or software defects in their digital environments to ward off attacks before they escalate.

An effective vulnerability management process includes ongoing scanning of the network, identifying vulnerabilities, assessing risk and impact, prioritizing vulnerabilities, remediating vulnerabilities, monitoring progress, and gaining insight for improvement and optimization. Many top vulnerability management platforms provide built-in metrics to assess and rank vulnerabilities, including CVSS scores and severity levels, as well as business, threat, and risk context for a more holistic view.

When companies take a holistic approach to vulnerability management, they are more likely to realize the ten benefits of an efficient and mature security program. They can reduce technical debt, achieve specific goals for their security frameworks or compliance requirements, gain visibility and reporting, and burn down backlogs of vulnerable systems.

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