What is Vulnerability Management?
Vulnerability management is the cyclical process of identifying, evaluating, prioritising, and remediating security flaws within an organization’s network, systems, and applications.
The goal of vulnerability management is to ensure that organizations have complete visibility and control of weaknesses that exist within their IT estates on a continuous basis.
Vulnerability management is not to be confused with a vulnerability assessment. Vulnerability management encompasses the end-to-end process of managing security issues, from discovery to remediation. On the other hand, a vulnerability assessment is a type of IT security test that discovers security issues within an organization’s network.
Why is vulnerability management important?
Vulnerability management is an essential part of an organization’s IT security strategy.
Effective vulnerability management helps IT security teams ensure that critical issues are discovered, analysed, and remediated as fast and efficiently as possible. This is critical to minimising an organization’s attack surface and preventing cyber attacks, which could have devastating consequences for an organization’s data, personnel, and reputation.
Vulnerability management also helps organizations allocate resources more effectively. Not all security vulnerabilities pose the same risk, and many may not even need to be remediated. Effective vulnerability management provides a framework for security teams to assess and prioritise vulnerabilities, so organizations can ensure that resources are allocated to the most critical issues.
Another reason why vulnerability management is so important is because an organization’s threat landscape is ever-changing. The cyclical process of vulnerability management helps security teams assess and measure their security posture on a continuous basis, so that there is very little opportunity for critical issues to be left unaddressed.
What is a vulnerability management system?
A vulnerability management system could be a software, platform, or application that helps security teams implement effective vulnerability management.
The goal of a vulnerability management system is to equip security teams with the tools they need to manage the results from their vulnerability assessments. For example, these tools could aid prioritising, delegating, reporting, tracking, and collaborating on remediation. Some vulnerability management tools may support other threat assessments too, such as penetration tests.
What is the Vulnerability Management Process?
Vulnerability management starts with the discovery of security issues, and concludes with validating whether remediation has been successful, before repeating continuously.
It’s essential that vulnerability management is a continuous process, as new vulnerabilities could emerge at any time, and pre-existing vulnerabilities could become more critical. Read more on Continuous Vulnerability Management.
We have summarised the complete process of vulnerability management below.
- Discover: Identify vulnerabilities within your organization’s network by carrying out vulnerability assessments.
- Consolidate: Centralise your assessment results in one place. This could involve transferring results from PDFs to a standardised database.
- Assess: Analyse your vulnerabilities to establish their severity, the likelihood that they will be exploited, and what impact they could have on your organization.
- Prioritize: Assign severity scores to your assets in line with your analysis, and other factors such as resource availability.
- Remediate: Implement your remediation program to resolve vulnerabilities in line with your organization’s priorities.
- Re-assess: Verify whether your remediation efforts have been successful. Ultimately, your vulnerability management process should reduce the risk of your organization being compromised.
- Visualize and improve: Continuously improve your vulnerability management process; resolve any bottlenecks and ensure compliance with your organization’s service level agreements. For example, could you reduce your time-to-remediate (TTR)?
What are the roadblocks to Vulnerability Management Systems?
Vulnerability management relies on many moving parts seamlessly working together to be successful. Without vulnerability management software, vulnerability management can be impeded by outdated processes and come up against a number of roadblocks.
- Data overload: Vulnerability assessments can inundate you with data. You may find yourself emailing back and forth with vendors or hunting through PDF reports to find the results you need, which could hinder your ability to address issues fast.
- Tracking: Delegating remediation can require collaboration with different teams; both internal and external to your organization. This can be difficult keep track of without an appropriate system.
- Security concerns: Assessment results are highly sensitive documents; your organization would be incredibly vulnerable if they ended up in the wrong hands. Receiving and sharing your results using email or cloud applications could be risky.
- Time consuming processes: Without a vulnerability management solution, teams typically need to reformat their assessment results before they can begin managing them, such as transferring results from PDFs to spreadsheets. This can be slow, repetitive, and take resource away from what’s most important.
- Human error: Not only can traditional vulnerability management processes be time consuming; handling your assessment data manually can lead to mistakes. This could pose serious risks to your organization, particularly if a critical issue is missed.
How to choose a Vulnerability Management System?
Not all vulnerability management solutions are built equally. We believe that the best vulnerability management tools address the following points.
- Vendor-agnostic: The best vulnerability management systems don’t tie you to a specific vendor. Selecting a vendor-agnostic vulnerability management platform enables you to consolidate assessment results from different suppliers. This is of particular benefit to multinational organizations.
- Real-time: As soon as a critical vulnerability is discovered, time is of the essence. Your vulnerability management system should facilitate the delivery of your assessment results in real-time, so you can address critical issues as soon as they are identified.
- Scalable: Your vulnerability management application should be able to grow with your organization. Be aware of any systems that limit the number of issues, assets, or users you can manage.
- Reporting: Make sure the vulnerability management system reports on the right information to support your security teams and system administrators. Does it measure the metrics you need?
- Holistic: Does the vulnerability management system support other assessments, such as combining threat and vulnerability assessments? This would enable you to gain a more holistic view of your threat landscape.
- Integrations: A vulnerability management tool should fit seamlessly with your existing processes and workflow. Does the system offer integrations with third party tools, such as ticketing systems?
- Security: Vulnerability management companies should ensure their systems are built with your organization’s security in mind. For example, does the system offer multi-factor authentication?