Businesses, both small and large, rely on technology. That means using computers (and other devices), apps, software, and, of course, a connection to the internet.
And, as the technology we use becomes more sophisticated, it also falls prey to misconfiguration and vulnerabilities.
These, in turn, can leave the business open to cyber attacks, leading to data breaches or loss control of assets.
That’s why vulnerability management is so essential.
What Is Vulnerability Management?
“Vulnerability management” refers to an integral part of cybersecurity management. It’s a task periodically carried out to identify, evaluate, remediate/mitigate, and report any potential weaknesses in a business’ network, system, infrastructure, or endpoints.
It forms a part of an overall strategy where cybersecurity is maintained by constantly evaluating risk and finding points that threat actors could use to gain access. Once these weak points are identified, the threat can be assessed and patch implementation carried out.
The reason why vulnerability management is essential is that it can help businesses reduce the avenues a threat actor has to get into the data and network of the company.
How Does Vulnerability Management Work?
As I said earlier, vulnerability management is a process where a business scans its systems and network for exploitable weaknesses. It generates a list of potential “problem areas”.
These are then assessed and given a priority ranking. This ranking helps your team identify issues that need fixing first.
Since the process is periodic and ongoing, your business can monitor all its digital assets to ensure your data stays safe.
What Is the Vulnerability Management Process?
The Vulnerability Management Policy
As with anything else in a business, vulnerability management starts with a plan. Here’s what you need to map out:
Prepare your vulnerability management policy: Once created, you should share it with other stakeholders and the security team to get their input before proceeding further.
Create a priority system: Just like you don’t give all vulnerabilities equal priority, certain systems might not require as much security as others. By creating a priority list, you can focus on the important parts whilst giving others slightly less, but adequate, attention.
Factor in the industry- and region-specific regulations: Certain industries have to follow regulations and policies specific to the work they do. Certain regions might have more stringent regulations around cybersecurity and data protection. Factor these in when planning your vulnerability management policy.
Train your cybersecurity and vulnerability management stakeholders: Whilst it is important that everyone in your organisation is trained on cyber secure behaviour, certain people would have to take on extra responsibilities.
For example, your security officers, cybersecurity or vulnerability engineers, asset and data owners, managed security service providers (MSSPs), and other business leaders. For a smoother operation, these people should know their roles and responsibilities in the vulnerability management process.
The Vulnerability Management Process
Once your policy is drafted and in place, you can start to implement it. The vulnerability management lifecycle can be broken down into the following steps (bear in mind, all of these steps have to be repeated regularly if you want to stay on top of threats):
Finding out the vulnerabilities: Identifying vulnerabilities in your business’s networks, systems, and IT assets can be done through vulnerability scanning (an automated process that identifies and reports exploitable weaknesses) or penetration testing (a mock attack carried out by a person who uses any weak points they find to “attack” you like a hacker would).
Evaluating and prioritising vulnerabilities: As I mentioned earlier, once you have a list of vulnerabilities, you don’t just start fixing them in any order. They need to be assessed and prioritised in order of how likely they are to be exploited and how much damage the threat actor can do through them.
It is entirely possible that you find a vulnerability that doesn’t actually pose any threat to your organisation. That’s why you need to assess and prioritise them, so dangerous weaknesses are dealt with first.
Remediating and mitigating: Once you know which vulnerabilities you need to deal with and in what order, you can start the process of fixing them. Some can be fixed with vulnerability patches. Others might not be fixable, and may require mitigation instead.
Assessing if the fixes worked: If you don’t test your solutions, you won’t know whether they worked or not. This process might require additional scanning or penetration testing. That way, you can definitively determine if the remediation and mitigation worked.
Documenting and reporting: You will need to document any vulnerabilities discovered as well as the steps taken towards their resolution. Of course, if you have different sets of reports coming in from processes like scans, pen testing, or other such activities, it might help to have them all in one place.
Leading cybersecurity service provider, DigitalXRAID, recently launched a one-of-a-kind portal that “allows a company’s cybersecurity measures to be viewed from a single source and enables greater collaboration across the business.”
This portal, called OrbitalX, enables businesses to create bespoke and automated reports to provide clients with “a holistic overview and better visibility of [their] cybersecurity posture and risk.”
Reassess your cybersecurity framework from time to time: Cyber threats continue to evolve. To keep up with them, the cybersecurity industry keeps developing new methods and tools for protecting data.
(Are you aware of the cybersecurity trends in 2023? Have a read and see if you have incorporated them into your vulnerability management strategy!)
Your business has to keep up with both the potential threats and the available solutions in order to be truly protected. The best way of doing so is by periodically reassessing your cybersecurity framework.
Parul Mathur has been writing since 2009. That’s when she discovered her love for SEO and how it works. She developed an interest in learning HTML and CSS a couple of years later, and React in 2020. When she’s not writing, she’s either reading, walking her dog, messing up her garden, or doodling.