Vulnerability Management Process Guide

Vulnerability Management Process Guide
Article by Sumana Ganguly
Last Updated: May 22, 2023

Cyberattackers can exploit network vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access, disrupt normal operations, or steal sensitive data. To mitigate the risks, businesses must promptly patch their operating systems and applications and adjust their security settings across their network environment.

This article takes you through the vulnerability management process; it explains its importance and steps you can take to prevent cyberattacks and protect valuable data.

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What Is Vulnerability Management Process

The vulnerability management process involves detecting the risks on your network and developing a plan to prevent adverse outcomes from the vulnerabilities. To identify and address potential security threats, a robust vulnerability scanning and management system combines the expertise of security professionals with the latest technology.

Vulnerabilities are weaknesses or flaws in software, hardware, and network systems, leaving them prone to attacks. They can result from coding errors, misconfigurations, or design flaws. Many vulnerabilities are easy to identify and fix, but if employees ignore the updates, the vulnerabilities slip through the cracks, and cyber security is threatened.

Organizations can improve their security posture and protect against threats by adopting a sound vulnerability management system. A comprehensive vulnerability management system works through multiple stages to reduce the security risk profile of an organization. This includes identifying vulnerabilities, assessing their potential impact, prioritizing them for remediation, and verifying they have been effectively addressed.

Importance of the Vulnerability Management Process

As the number of devices on a network increases, the risk of security threats and advanced attacks on endpoints also grows. Proactively managing network vulnerabilities is better than dealing with consequences after an attack.

The need for vulnerability management is further emphasized by the constant patches and updates released by hardware and software vendors. Managing these updates, which can be harmful when ignored, can be a full-time job for an IT security team.

Advanced and customized threats are becoming more widespread, indicating that attackers actively search for vulnerabilities in their target networks. This gives them a higher chance of successfully infiltrating and exploiting the network.

As organizations increasingly recognize the importance and benefits of cybersecurity, many industries have regulations that require companies to have a vulnerability management process. These regulations require businesses to develop a strategy to deal with potential threats and ensure network security.

Vulnerability Management Process Steps

  1. Identifying Vulnerabilities
  2. Evaluating Vulnerabilities
  3. Treating Vulnerabilities
  4. Reporting Vulnerabilities

Four critical steps involved in the vulnerability management process include:

1. Identifying Vulnerabilities

At the core of a typical vulnerability management process is vulnerability scanning. A vulnerability scan moves through the following four stages:

  • Ping the network-accessible systems and send them TCP/UDP packers for scanning
  • Identify the open ports and services that run on the scanned systems
  • Remotely log in to systems to gather detailed system information
  • Correlate the system information with known vulnerabilities

Vulnerability scanners identify systems running on a network. The recognized systems are probed for specific attributes such as open ports, operating systems, user accounts, installed software, system configuration, file system structure, etc. The information is then used to associate the known vulnerabilities to scanned systems. This process requires a database consisting of publicly known vulnerabilities.

Proper configuration of vulnerability scans is essential to any comprehensive vulnerability management solution. Scanners can disrupt the systems and networks they scan, but scans can be scheduled during off-hours to minimize any impact on network bandwidth.

2. Evaluating Vulnerabilities

The vulnerability evaluation process provides risk ratings and scores for vulnerabilities, referred to as the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) scores. These scores help prioritize vulnerabilities that should be resolved.

Several other factors determine the actual risk. Some common questions are:

  • Is vulnerability a true or false positive?
  • Can this vulnerability be directly exploited?
  • How challenging can it be to exploit this vulnerability?
  • How long has the vulnerability been on the network?
  • What impact would the exploitation of the vulnerability have on the organization?

Identifying false positives helps organizations focus on dealing with real vulnerabilities. Like most security tools, vulnerability scanners are not 100% accurate, and chances of false positives exist. Performing vulnerability validation with penetration testing tools and techniques helps eliminate false positives.

3. Treating Vulnerabilities

There are three ways of treating vulnerabilities:

  • Remediation involves fixing or patching the vulnerability so it can’t be exploited.
  • Mitigation decreases the risk of exploiting a vulnerability. It is used when remediation is unavailable for a particular vulnerability.
  • Acceptance is the solution when the vulnerability is low-risk, and the cost of fixing it is higher than leaving it unfixed.

Vulnerability management solutions usually recommend remediation techniques, but the security team sometimes must determine the best approach. Remediation can be simple (applying a readily available software patch) or complex (replacing a range of physical servers across an organization’s network). After it's completed, performing another scan and ensuring the vulnerability is resolved is necessary.

Not all vulnerabilities require fixing. In many cases, vulnerable software can be disabled and avoid further actions.

4. Reporting Vulnerabilities

Organizations must perform regular and continuous vulnerability assessments to keep track of the speed and efficiency of their vulnerability management program.

Vulnerability management solutions offer several options for visualizing and exporting vulnerability scan data using customizable dashboards and reports. This helps the IT team decide upon the remediation technique to fix most vulnerabilities with the least effort.

Security teams must monitor the vulnerability trends so the organizations can abide by the compliance and regulatory requirements.

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What Vulnerability Management Solutions Are Available?

Vulnerability management is complex, but commercial solutions can automate the vulnerability management process. Some focus entirely on vulnerability assessment, others on scanning, while some provide comprehensive coverage of the overall vulnerability management process.

There are also security solutions that go beyond vulnerability management. They add value by integrating other security functionalities, including asset discovery, data classification, SIEM and log data correlation, intrusion detection, privilege access management, threat detection and response, and compliance auditing and reporting.

Takeaways on Vulnerability Management Process

Organizations constantly improve their work environment by adding new devices, networks, cloud services, and applications. With growing IT infrastructure, the risk of new vulnerabilities increases, giving attackers a possible way in.

New opportunities for cyberattacks and threats open whenever a company gets a new employee, customer, or affiliate partner. Protecting organizations from these threats makes vulnerability management indispensable. To stay one step ahead of cybercriminals, contact the best cybersecurity companies and protect valuable data from malicious activities.

Vulnerability Management FAQs

1. What are the 4 main types of vulnerability in information security?

Four main types of vulnerabilities in information security are:

  1. Network vulnerabilities
  2. Operating system vulnerabilities
  3. Process (or procedural) vulnerabilities
  4. Human vulnerabilities

2. What is vulnerability management?

Vulnerability management is a process that involves identifying, assessing, prioritizing, and mitigating security vulnerabilities in an organization's systems, networks, and applications.

Vulnerability management reduces the risk of security breaches and protects sensitive data from cyber threats by continuously monitoring, detecting, and addressing vulnerabilities.

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