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ThreatLocker® Blog - What is Vulnerability Management and Why is It Important?

What is Vulnerability Management and Why is It Important?

Table of Contents

TL;DR: Vulnerability management is a critical cybersecurity process that identifies, evaluates, and addresses system weaknesses to protect against evolving threats. A robust vulnerability management system enhances security, reduces risks, and ensures compliance.

Main Points: 

  • Identification: Uses vulnerability scanning and penetration testing. 
  • Evaluation: Assesses severity and exploitability. 
  • Resolution: Remediation, mitigation, or acceptance. 
  • Reporting: Tracks vulnerabilities and remediation steps. 
  • Continuous Improvement: Regular scans and updates. 
  • Benefits: Improved security, reduced downtime, enhanced compliance, and cost savings. 
  • Tools: Automated software for efficiency and accuracy. 

Cyber threats are constantly evolving, leaving businesses and individuals vulnerable.   

This is where vulnerability management comes in. This systematic process continuously identifies, evaluates, addresses, and reports on weaknesses in systems to help organizations stay one step ahead of bad actors. 

No organization is completely safe, but a vulnerability management system is a powerful way to bolster your defenses. 

What is Vulnerability Management? 

Networks can be compared to a castle. Firewalls and antivirus tools are like strong walls and vigilant guards to keep invaders away. However, like a castle, there may be hidden weaknesses like a misconfiguration or unpatched bug that attackers can exploit to gain access to your network.  

Vulnerability management is the ongoing process of identifying, classifying, prioritizing, and remediating these vulnerabilities. The goal is to find and address vulnerabilities before attackers discover them. 

The Vulnerability Management Process 

Vulnerability management is an ongoing process. New vulnerabilities are discovered constantly, so it's crucial to have a consistent process for regularly assessing risks. 

A typical vulnerability management process often looks something like this: 

1. Identification: Shining a Light on the Shadows 

This crucial first step checks an organization's network for all potential vulnerabilities. There are two main ways organizations can discover these risks: 

  • Vulnerability Scanning: Automated tools scan your systems for known vulnerabilities. Many security teams utilize a vulnerability scanner to automatically perform periodic scans since it is efficient. 
  • Penetration Testing simulates a cyberattack, using ethical hackers to exploit vulnerabilities and identify potential security gaps that may not be picked up by a scan. Penetration testing can be more in-depth than vulnerability scanning, but it's also more resource-intensive. 

2. Evaluation: Not All Vulnerabilities Are Created Equal 

Once identified, vulnerabilities need to be evaluated to determine their severity and potential impact. This ensures that critical security vulnerabilities are addressed first to improve your cybersecurity posture. 

To help prioritize vulnerabilities, consider factors such as: 

  • Exploitability: How easy is it for an attacker to exploit the vulnerability? 
  • Severity: What damage could be caused if the vulnerability is exploited? 
  • Affected Systems: How many and which systems are affected by the vulnerability? 

Many organizations use the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS), which scores critically known vulnerabilities, to help evaluate risks. Other threat intelligence sources also offer similar lists. Keep in mind that these sources list only known and common vulnerabilities and exposures, which is why penetration testing and being proactive about zero-day vulnerabilities are also necessary.  

3. Resolution: Patching the Holes 

After the vulnerability assessment, it is time to resolve them. According to the experts at IBM, security teams are faced with three choices for this step: 

  1. Remediation: This ideal fix fully addresses the vulnerability so it can no longer be exploited. Many vulnerabilities can be fixed by installing software patches from the vendor. Sometimes, they can be addressed by adjusting security settings in the systems. 
  2. Mitigation: If an immediate solution isn't available, the next best option is to make the vulnerability more difficult to exploit. Segmenting a vulnerable device from the network can be a temporary solution before a patch is available. 
  3. Acceptance: Sometimes, vulnerabilities that are not deemed critical are accepted at the time to prioritize more pressing risks. 

4. Reporting: Keeping Track of Security Risks 

Documenting and reporting on vulnerabilities is crucial. This includes details like the identified vulnerability, its severity, remediation steps taken, and its current status.  

This record-keeping helps track progress and ensures accountability. It acts as the source of truth for future security audits. 

5. Continuous Improvement: The Cycle Never Ends 

New vulnerabilities are discovered all the time. Regular vulnerability scans are essential for maintaining a strong security posture.  

By following this vulnerability management process example, organizations can significantly reduce their risk of cyberattacks and keep their data and systems safe. 

Benefits of Vulnerability Management  

Vulnerability management is an essential piece of the cybersecurity puzzle. It encompasses a broad range of actions focusing on ongoing identification and remediation. Some of the benefits of this tool include: 

  • Proactive Threat Detection: Identify weaknesses before attackers exploit them, minimizing the risk of breaches and data loss. Move your organization away from being reactive to threats and adopt a proactive, responsive approach
  • Prioritized Remediation: Focus resources on fixing the most critical vulnerabilities first, maximizing security gains. Gain peace of mind that you are optimizing your resources to best protect your organization. 
  • Improved Security Posture: Continuously strengthen your defenses by identifying and addressing vulnerabilities as they emerge. Always stay one step ahead of threats. 
  • Reduced Downtime: Mitigate the risk of system outages caused by exploited vulnerabilities. This, alongside a cybersecurity incident response plan, is crucial for business continuity.  
  • Enhanced Compliance: Meet industry regulations and data protection requirements that often mandate vulnerability management. Protect your information while avoiding fines and penalties. 
  • Cost Savings: The global average cost of a data breach in 2023 was USD 4.45 million, a 15% increase over three years. Prevent the high costs associated with breaches, including remediation efforts, fines, and reputational damage, by being proactive.  
  • Increased Efficiency: Automate vulnerability scanning and reporting for streamlined security operations. Vulnerability management software can be one of your best assets (more on that soon). 
  • Improved Decision-Making: Gain valuable insights into your security posture to make informed decisions about resource allocation. Spend your time and money wisely while shoring up your defenses. 
  • Demonstrated Security Commitment: Build trust with clients and partners by showing a proactive approach to cybersecurity. 

Tools of the Trade: Vulnerability Management Software 

Since today's networks are more distributed than ever before, manual vulnerability management is nearly impossible. It is simply too costly and time-consuming for teams to constantly look for new weaknesses every day. 

Vulnerability management software streamlines the entire process by automating tasks and providing a centralized platform for managing vulnerabilities. They can scan an entire network infrastructure for known vulnerabilities 24/7/365. It can also analyze each vulnerability's severity and potential impact, helping organizations prioritize which ones to address first in a fraction of the time it would take manually. 

Here are a handful of reasons why organizations use vulnerability management software: 

  • Reduced Time and Effort: Automated scans and reporting free up your security team's valuable time, allowing them to focus on more strategic security initiatives. 
  • Improved Accuracy and Consistency: Automated tools eliminate the possibility of human error in vulnerability identification and prioritization, ensuring a consistent and accurate approach. 
  • Enhanced Scalability: These tools can be easily scaled to accommodate growing networks and complex IT environments. 
  • Simplified Collaboration: Vulnerability management software provides a central platform for security teams to collaborate and share information. Ensure everyone is on the same page about your cybersecurity efforts.  

Additional Vulnerability Management Services 

Of course, software is not the only vulnerability management solution on the market. To create a proactive approach to cybersecurity, organizations should consider layering additional vulnerability management services to enhance their defenses significantly. 

A robust cybersecurity stack should include the following:  

  • Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR): EDR solutions continuously monitor endpoint devices for suspicious behavior, allowing you to quickly detect and respond to threats. 
  • Allowlisting: This approach only allows pre-approved applications to run on your systems, significantly reducing the attack surface. Should a vulnerability be exploited, it would be blocked from being used to run other applications. 
  • Ringfencing™: This allows you to define how applications can interact with each other and network resources, further limiting the potential damage from exploited vulnerabilities. Consider Ringfencing™ a second line of defense should an application you have permitted to run become exploited.  

These solutions and following best practices for system updates and antivirus tools can offer more protection against known and unknown vulnerabilities. 

The Importance of Vulnerability Management 

Vulnerability management is a necessity for modern organizations. With new threats constantly emerging, investing in the right vulnerability management solution is the key to staying one step ahead to protect your business. 

Don't wait for an attack to happen – take a proactive approach to cybersecurity and make vulnerability management a cornerstone of your security strategy. With the right tools and strategies, you can build a robust defense that safeguards your data and keeps your business operations running smoothly.   

Interested in learning more about how ThreatLocker® can be used to shore up your organization's cyber defenses? Book a demo with the Cyber Hero™ Team today!