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What is vulnerability management?

Vulnerability management is the ongoing process of discovering, assessing, prioritizing and remediating software vulnerabilities. Vulnerability management seeks to continually identify vulnerabilities and prioritize remediation efforts to quickly patch security flaws and improve the organization’s security posture. With cybercriminals looking to take advantage of open vulnerabilities, vulnerability management is a proactive process that helps close security gaps in your network before they are utilized for a cyberattack.

Vulnerability management importance

Vulnerability management is becoming increasingly important to companies due to the rising threat of cyber security attacks. It is the cornerstone of your cybersecurity initiative because any vulnerabilities left unidentified and unaddressed can bring your business down. While vulnerability management isn’t a new concept for many companies, it’s become clear that legacy vulnerability tools configured to perform periodic scans are no longer enough to defend against a diverse attack surface. With new vulnerabilities constantly emerging, it’s important for organizations to continuously discover and remediate any security gaps to stay ahead of adversaries. With a vulnerability management program, organizations can prioritize vulnerabilities and implement a remediation strategy to ensure threats are mitigated swiftly and efficiently.

Mean time to patch
Mean time to patch

Challenges with vulnerability management

Vulnerability management is not just about scanning your networks for threats and patching security gaps. A holistic approach is needed in order to make informed decisions about which vulnerabilities to address first and how to properly mitigate them. Even if organizations recognize this, they may face challenges when trying to implement a vulnerability management program, including:

Vulnerability management process

For most organizations, management of their expanding attack surface is no longer a human-scale problem. With cyber threats becoming more common, security teams need vulnerability management processes and solutions that can monitor and analyze their attack surface, automatically, continuously and in real-time. With a more automated approach to cybersecurity posture management, vulnerabilities can be identified faster and mitigated before they are exploited by cybercriminals.

Having a comprehensive vulnerability management program that helps you discover, prioritize and respond to vulnerabilities is key to protecting your organization from cyber threats. The three key processes are explained in-depth below:

Discovery

The first step towards vulnerability management is knowing “what” to scan which starts by gaining enterprise-wide visibility into all the assets of your organization. Broad asset coverage is a core capability that is required to discover all potential vulnerabilities. If your vulnerability management system only “sees” a few types of assets, your coverage is insufficient. Consider an automated asset discovery and inventory solution that identifies all types of assets and inventories them, empowering you to manage risk across the entire attack surface.

A vulnerability system powered by AI can solve the problem of collecting asset and vulnerability information across your entire enterprise—regardless of the number of tools. Automation allows your team to collect, correlate and analyze asset data from multiple repositories in real-time—greatly reducing the time to inventory. Using automation, data can be continuously ingested from your various security tools to provide a more accurate, real-time view of your assets and vulnerabilities. Armed with this information, your security team is better equipped to tackle your organization’s vulnerabilities in the most efficient manner and increase the effectiveness of your vulnerability management efforts.

Prioritization

With hundreds or thousands of vulnerabilities, it’s important to effectively prioritize remediation to ensure your security team isn’t racing to address issues that pose little or no real risk to your business-critical assets. Since not every vulnerability presents the same security risk to operating systems, it’s critical to get context around each vulnerability and the enterprise asset that it affects.

To effectively prioritize the remediation of vulnerabilities, organizations need to adopt a risk-based prioritization approach, which requires a vulnerability management platform that understands and learns your business context, considers the value of each asset to your business and takes into account vulnerabilities, active threats, exposure due to software usage and any mitigating controls already implemented in your enterprise to calculated risk. With this approach, your organization can first focus on actions that are critical and make smarter decisions to reduce your risk, both strategically and tactically.

Top Risk Insights
Top Risk Insights

Response

After you’ve identified the vulnerabilities that exist across your systems, it’s important to evaluate the risks they pose and determine how to effectively manage them. There are several ways to treat vulnerabilities: remediation (fully fixing or patching a vulnerability), mitigation (lessening the likelihood of a vulnerability being exploited), or taking no action (accepting the risk posed by that vulnerability). A risk-based vulnerability management tool will analyze different remediation scenarios and the related risk reduction results to recommend the best remediation option for your security team, such as highly tuned patch instructions. It can also help align remediation efforts to business priorities by identifying the owners of risk issues and assigning them remediation tasks. With this approach, security leaders have processes that enable prioritization and can build an effective strategy so they can quickly address security issues and protect their organization.

Risk-Based Vulnerability Management

Vulnerability management best practices

Every new vulnerability introduces a new security risk to an organization. To mitigate these risks and improve your security posture, your security team needs to implement an effective vulnerability management program that can help stop attacks in their tracks.

Vulnerability management best practices include:

  • Recognize what you are trying to protect by discovering and inventorying all IT assets including systems, applications, devices, data, business processes, and users.
  • Employ an AI-powered platform that continuously monitors all assets and proactively predicts what vulnerabilities are most likely to be exploited.
  • Adopt a risk-based vulnerability management approach to your security measures so you can prioritize vulnerabilities based on their level of threat to your organization.
  • Develop a response strategy so your security team can determine how to effectively manage vulnerabilities using the best remediation approach.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is vulnerability management?

Vulnerability management is the ongoing process of discovering, assessing, prioritizing and remediating software vulnerabilities. Vulnerability management seeks to help organizations identify their security gaps so they can quickly fix critical vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by an attack. The key to a strong vulnerability management program is implementing processes that can help you discover, prioritize and quickly respond to vulnerabilities that pose the greatest threat to your assets.

What is the vulnerability management process?

A vulnerability management process is meant to reduce the amount of cyber-related threats and attacks against an organization. The first step of the vulnerability management process includes discovering all assets across your network and identifying vulnerabilities that pose a threat to your assets. From there it’s important to determine the best strategy to prioritize and effectively remediate vulnerabilities that pose the biggest threat to your organization so your security team isn’t rushing to fix issues that don’t pose a major threat.

Is vulnerability management important?

With the exploding enterprise attack surface, it can be challenging for organizations to identify and fix vulnerabilities in a timely manner. Additionally, organizations might be using legacy vulnerability tools that don’t provide accurate information on which vulnerabilities are critical and which can wait. A vulnerability management program can solve these problems by helping your organization discover and properly address your vulnerabilities so you can keep up with the constantly evolving attack surface.