Essential Steps for Effective Vulnerability Management
Vulnerability management is a core component of effective cybersecurity. The process involves identification, assessing, remediating, and monitoring vulnerabilities to prevent breaches and minimize the attack surface.
Abdelkader says the first step is identifying vulnerabilities, which should be risk-based. That includes establishing an organization’s risk tolerance and a process for prioritizing work.
Regarding vulnerability management, it’s important to identify any weaknesses attackers could exploit to access your systems and sensitive information. You can do this through manual inspection or with automated tools.
Once you’ve identified vulnerabilities, it’s important to triage them to determine which ones need fixing first based on the risk of exploitation and the impact on your organization. This step can be guided by the classifications – high, medium, and low – offered by vulnerability scans, vendors, and other sources. Still, it should also consider your organization’s risk tolerance and technical environment.
Some vulnerabilities will be easier to fix than others, but it’s vital to have a plan to mitigate these risks as soon as possible. It should include staggered updates and a rollback strategy where necessary. You’ll also need to track the progress of your remediation efforts by recording when a vulnerability was fixed and what steps were taken to address it.
Identifying vulnerabilities is only good if the next step is to assess them. In this phase, teams use scans and tests to determine the number and severity of security weaknesses. This information is often combined with threat intelligence and business impact to prioritize risk and focus remediation efforts.
It’s important to consider that the risk of a specific vulnerability may change over time, so it’s also essential to regularly review and update the assessment process. It’s also important to ensure a robust mitigation plan for vulnerabilities that can’t be eliminated using patches.
This step is typically a collaborative effort between development, operations, and security staff, who decide on a cost-effective path to close security gaps. It may involve deploying software updates, changing access policies, increasing monitoring, or temporarily increasing protections on at-risk systems until the proper fixes can be applied. It’s also important to document and communicate this information so that less-technical business leaders can understand the value of the work.
When vulnerabilities are identified, they must be prioritized and remediated. It usually involves applying a security patch or upgrading older hardware that can no longer be updated. It may also include ringfencing systems to prevent them from communicating with devices outside the network.
Unfortunately, fixing every vulnerability is not feasible or necessary, especially those that are not severe or easily exploitable. Prioritization based on the risk to the organization is essential and should include factors like the cost and practicalities of remediating each vulnerability.
The process should be continuous and iterative to identify vulnerabilities as soon as they’re discovered. The scanning and vulnerability assessment team must be aligned with other teams across the organization, including IT, legal, finance, public relations, and business operations. This visibility helps everyone stay informed of the scope and priorities of vulnerability management activities. It also enables teams to adapt their plans as the business changes or new risks emerge.
Vulnerability management is not a one-and-done task but an ongoing process.That needs to be reinforce by other security components such as patch, asset, and change management. Having a record of vulnerabilities that have remedied, mitigated, or accepted will be helpful to your security operations. Incident response teams in the future and is often required for compliance standards.
When evaluating and prioritizing vulnerabilities, your organization must consider the threat context for each vulnerability. And, how easy it is to exploit and how much risk it poses to the network or digital assets. This step can be facilitated by vulnerability management solutions with built-in metrics for assessment or through manually conducted penetration testing and risk scoring.
Finally, your organization will need to have a plan for managing systems with critical or mission-critical applications and services. That can’t be updated without impacting system availability. For example, some hardware devices may require special software that can’t be upgraded. Also, the business may rely on older operating systems with vendor support past their end-of-life.