What is Vulnerability Management?
With an ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape, it’s increasingly vital to manage your risk of a cyber-attack. There are numerous ways to accomplish that, and a layered security approach is always your best IT solution. For example, one of those layers includes vulnerability management. So let’s take a closer look at just what vulnerability management is.
Vulnerability management involves continuous inspection of your systems and software. As a result, it identifies, evaluates, treats, and reports on security vulnerabilities in your IT environment. In addition, vulnerability management helps manage your attack surface and prioritize threats against you.
Typically, vulnerability management programs deploy threat intelligence to prioritize risks and address vulnerabilities as quickly as possible to minimize the severity of the threat. But apart from keeping your organization safe from known exploitations, a vulnerability management program ensures you stay compliant with regulatory requirements.
Vulnerability Management vs. Vulnerability Assessment
A vulnerability assessment is a subset of a vulnerability management program. So, organizations conduct checks to capture more information about their networks. But it’s a one-time process. Vulnerability management is ongoing.
What is Considered a Vulnerability?
The International Organization for Standards defines a vulnerability as a weakness of an asset or group that one or more threats can exploit. More specifically, vulnerabilities comprise threats by an external actor to gain unauthorized access or control of applications, services, endpoints, or servers.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) developed the security content automation protocol (SCAP) standard. It covers these components:
- Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE): A CVE presents a specific vulnerability that may open the door for an attack.
- Common Configuration Enumeration (CCE): CCE covers a list of security configuration issues for configuration guidance.
- Common Platform Enumeration (CPE): CPEs identify classes of applications, operating systems, and devices in your environment.
- Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS): CVSS assesses and assigns severity scores to vulnerabilities. It’s used to prioritize remediation.
With CVSS scores range from 0.0 to 10.0. Next, The National Vulnerability Database (NVD) adds a severity rating for those CVSS scores, among other sources. This chart presents severity rankings:
|CVSS Score||Severity Rating|
You can visit the NVD website to view a library of common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs).
Concerning configurations, the Center for Internet Security provides updated baselines. So, you can use those baselines to assess and remediate configuration-based vulnerabilities.
What’s Involved in a Vulnerability Management Program
Gartner prescribes pre-stage components required to implement a vulnerability management program (see below).
This cycle lays the groundwork for your vulnerability management program and focuses on establishing the scope, responsibilities, tools, and program documentation.
However, your vulnerability program itself typically involves these critical components:
You need to know your areas of vulnerability and inventory them accordingly – operating systems, mobile devices, firewalls, desktops, services, applications, configurations, etc. Typically, this process includes network and system scans.
Those scans encompass these stages:
- Pinging network-accessible systems
- Identifying services and open ports on relevant systems
- Collecting information remote log-in systems
- Comparing that information to known vulnerabilities currently
It’s best to schedule these scans outside peak traffic times to minimize disruptions. But the scans seek to Identify assets for open ports, installed software, user accounts, system configurations, and more. Once identified, you can then associate known vulnerabilities to the scanned systems using a resource like NVD.
An IT services provider or cybersecurity company can support you with conducting the scans if you’re short-staffed.
Evaluate and Prioritize
After uncovering assets, categorize them based on CVSS scores and assign risks. In addition, it’s critical to do this based on the asset’s criticality to your organization. Plus, you’ll also want to address important questions such as:
- Is the vulnerability true or false positive?
- Is the vulnerability directly exploitable via the internet?
- How difficult would it be to exploit the vulnerability?
- Does a published exploit code exist?
- What’s the impact on your organization of an exploit?
- What’s the age of the vulnerability?
It would help if you went through this same evaluation and prioritization process as you conducted new scans.
Once you’ve identified and prioritized vulnerabilities, take the next step – address them. Generally, you can take three approaches to address vulnerabilities:
- Remediate: The ideal approach is to patch or reconfigure your systems to avoid an exploit.
- Mitigate: Effectively, mitigation buys your organization time to remediate. For example, a patch has yet to be introduced, so you need to lessen the vulnerability until one becomes available.
- Accept: It may be more prudent to take no action for low-risk vulnerabilities. This approach may be acceptable if the costs to remediate the vulnerability substantially outweigh an exploit of the exposure.
After addressing vulnerabilities, it’s best to run another vulnerability scan to validate the exposure is fully resolved.
It’s essential to document and report your risk state associated with vulnerabilities. Moreover, those reports should extend to all levels of your organization, including IT and the C-suite.
Vulnerability management solutions generally provide the ability to export scan data to create customizable reports and dashboards. So reviewing these reports helps determine what remediation efforts deliver the most significant impact with the least effort. In addition, reports solidify compliance and regulatory requirements.
Vulnerability Management Solutions
Scanning represents one and only one component of vulnerability management. A host of other toolsets exist designed to improve the effectiveness of any management program. For instance, many integrate other IT solutions for security like:
- Asset discovery
- Data classification
- Intrusion detection
- Privilege access management
- SIEM and log data correlation
- Compliance auditing and reporting
Regardless of the solution or layered solutions you deploy, make sure you receive real-time visibility into your vulnerabilities. In addition, look for agents that minimize the impact on endpoint performance.
Moreover, always keep in mind that your organization is fluid. For example, your business captures new partners, hires new employees, and gains new customers. Every time you do, you open the door to new threats. So, it would help if you had a vulnerability management solution that’s equally fluid and adaptable.
Many IT service providers can support you in implementing these solutions or offer the service at reasonable costs.
Ready to Tackle Vulnerability Management?
Small and medium-sized businesses can benefit from vulnerability management but may need some help. That’s where our local IT company comes into play.
As a managed IT services provider, we support SMBs in Harrisburg, York, Lancaster, and surrounding areas. In addition, our IT services offer expanded support for services you might otherwise find unaffordable to bring in-house. For example, our IT support covers cloud services, cyber awareness training, and cybersecurity services.
We can even support you with a Security Operations Center that offers ongoing monitoring and analysis of cyber risks. That continual examination drastically reduces the chances of a data breach by detecting intrusions quickly and taking the steps required to mitigate them.
Get the ball rolling with a FREE IT risk assessment. We’ll do a simple scan that identifies patch management issues, data leaks, and more. So you can remediate those areas before you fall victim to cybercriminals. It’s free, so hit us up today.