Technology

The Complete Guide to the Vulnerability Management Process

Vulnerability management involves finding, evaluating, and prioritizing security vulnerabilities across systems. Learn more about vulnerability management.

Introduction

Vulnerability management is an essential component of endpoint security and is one of the most proactive approaches to identifying and eliminating security flaws before an attacker can exploit them.

Organizations can quickly assess and mitigate security vulnerabilities in their IT infrastructure with the help of vulnerability management strategies and tools.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What is the vulnerability management process?
  • Why is it so important to get this process right?
  • What are the stages of this process?
  • Risks of vulnerability management
  • Tips to strengthen your vulnerability management process

What is the vulnerability management process?

The term "vulnerability management" is used to describe the process of discovering, cataloging, prioritizing, and fixing security holes in software, including but not limited to:

  • Operating systems (OS).
  • Enterprise applications (whether hosted in the cloud or on-premises).
  • Web browsers.
  • User apps.

Vulnerability management, which is an ongoing process, aims to uncover vulnerabilities continuously that may be remedied by applying patches and adjusting security settings.

Thousands of new vulnerabilities are found annually, requiring enterprises to patch OS and apps and adjust security settings across the board.

Organizations that are concerned with the safety of their environment do vulnerability management to ensure the greatest levels of security posture feasible and to patch vulnerabilities before they may be exploited in a cyberattack.

Why it's important to get the vulnerability management process right

Vulnerabilities are weak spots in your system that hackers can use to get access. Once they have gained access, they can misuse resources, steal data or prevent users from using services.

Hackers have an open invitation to penetrate a system if security flaws aren't pinpointed and fixed.

To assess and protect your network, vulnerability management software may help you with organized guidance. This method can help in doing a thorough search instead of disregarding vulnerabilities or running the chance of them being missed.

The lifespan of system vulnerabilities can be reduced using vulnerability management solutions. If your network is breached despite your best efforts, it can prove that you took all necessary precautions.

What are the stages of the vulnerability management process?

A company's exposure to danger grows with each newly discovered security problem.

Therefore, companies frequently adopt a structured process to swiftly and continuously identify and address risks. Vulnerability management may be broken down into a total of six processes, each of which has its own set of subprocesses and activities.

  • Discover: If you don't know what you're trying to protect, you can't protect it. The first step in finding security flaws is doing a comprehensive asset inventory throughout the whole environment and noting specifics such as the OS, services, applications, and settings. This often includes both a network scan and an agent-based system scan that requires authentication. The process of discovery needs to be carried out on a regular, automated timetable.
  • Prioritize: Second, the newly uncovered assets must be organized into groups and prioritized according to risk and importance to the business.
  • Assess: The third step is determining a risk baseline for use as a point of reference when previously identified vulnerabilities are closed and risks are mitigated. Assessments offer a continuing baseline over time.
  • Remediate Fourth, security flaws should be patched in order of risk severity (whether via patching or reconfiguration). It is important to have controls in place so the remediation can be finished effectively and its progress can be recorded.
  • Verify: The fifth step is the confirmation of the remediation, which may be done by fresh scans or IT reporting.
  • Report: As the last step, IT, executives, and the C-suite must have a solid grasp of the level of risk of vulnerabilities. Executives need a snapshot of the current vulnerability state (think red/yellow/green type reporting). At the same time, the C-suite requires something more high-level, such as simple risk scores across parts of the business, and IT needs tactical reporting on vulnerabilities identified and remediated (by comparing the most recent scan with the previous one).

A strong vulnerability management program will see each process (and any sub-processes) as a continuous lifecycle when it comes to improving security and lowering organizational risk in the network environment.

Programs that are truly effective view this as something that happens every day, not just once every three months or once every year.

Risks of vulnerability management

Vulnerability management (VM) that is both efficient and thorough is crucial for every business.

But most organizations have obsolete VM concepts, which causes vulnerability management issues. As a result of ignoring these difficulties in vulnerability management, security is compromised.

There's no single view of vulnerabilities

Companies frequently employ various vulnerability scanners and detection techniques, each of which typically functions independently. To give two examples, misconfigurations found in security audits and application vulnerabilities discovered through pen testing may only exist in the respective reports. Vulnerabilities at the application layer are handled in a separate system, while those in the network layer are handled in a third.

It is challenging to adequately identify vulnerabilities and remedy them without combining all of them from many sources into a unified and consistent dashboard.

Incomplete asset inventory

The cornerstone of efficient vulnerability management is a transparent, regularly updated, and exhaustive asset inventory. Companies can't safeguard their possessions without first identifying what they have.

Many assets, such as apps, databases, moving parts, shared services, third-party components, and software, are part of today's businesses, producing a vast attack surface vulnerable to several attack vectors.

One of the biggest obstacles in vulnerability management is an out-of-date asset inventory.

Even companies that do keep an asset inventory often rely on outmoded practices like spreadsheets and manual discovery.

Risks associated with vulnerability management are amplified by using such techniques, which frequently produce an inaccurate image. The failure to identify vital assets, for instance, might lead to inadequate protection.

Imcorrect vulnerability prioritization

Due to the sheer volume of security flaws in the company's IT infrastructure, fixing them all would be an unfeasible task for the IT security team and software engineers.

Therefore, it is helpful to categorize vulnerabilities according to how high of a danger they provide, whether that be extremely high, high, medium, or low. To quantify danger, we consider things like:

  • The importance of assets.
  • Availability of public exploits.
  • Malware and assaults are actively attempting to exploit the vulnerability.
  • The vulnerability's severity, extent, exploitability and potential harm.
  • Vulnerability's popularity.

However, certain businesses skip right through vulnerability identification and go straight to fixing the issues.

Sometimes they fail to prioritize properly. In either situation, IT security teams risk focusing on a low-priority vulnerability and failing to address more serious flaws. The company's security is compromised in the worst conceivable way due to this.

Taking a periodic rather than a continuous strategy toward VM

Organizations will struggle to manage the influx of vulnerabilities and vulnerability debt if the VM process is episodic rather than continuous.

Working with a persistent backlog of security concerns only raises the stakes of vulnerability management in a business. An organization's security and defenses must be continuously monitored and improved through a VM process.

Scanning done with outdated technology

Using antiquated scanning methods and tools, especially manual scanning, is another obstacle in vulnerability management. Scan times and effort would rise, and scan quality would suffer.

Why?

When the scan findings are finally received, the results will no longer be relevant! Higher rates of false positives, inaccuracies and human errors in the results are also not uncommon.

Data from vulnerability assessments shows a serious problem

Reports on security vulnerabilities are essential for making informed decisions at the executive level and for carrying out necessary repairs.

The entire VM procedure suffers if these reports are incorrect, inefficient, or difficult to understand. It's a problem waiting to happen since it creates poor communication amongst teams.

Lack of resources

For businesses with limited resources, such as small and medium-sized ones, this presents a serious vulnerability management problem. They are not equipped financially or with enough people to launch a successful VM initiative.

However, with the help of the proper security service provider, SMEs may create an efficient risk-based vulnerability management program without breaking the bank.

Tips to strengthen your vulnerability management process

A substantial amount of work must be done manually in vulnerability management.

This may be a tedious and thankless task, whether you're trying to extract data from PDFs of old penetration test reports or converting spreadsheets into tasks that can be assigned to coworkers.

Fortunately, we have created a list of best practices that should be useful to you regardless of the maturity level of your vulnerability management strategy.

1. Convert PDF report data into a spreadsheet using software

Do you still copy and paste data from PDF files into Excel spreadsheets by hand? Incorrect data might quickly enter your master document and systems due to human error.

Adobe Acrobat Pro DC, PDFpenPro11 and PDF Candy are just a few examples of advanced PDF applications that include sophisticated features to convert PDFs into excel spreadsheets with a single click.

In most cases, the converted output must have unwanted rows and columns removed by hand.

The most significant advantage, beyond the obvious time savings over manually copying and pasting each line, is that you may rest easy knowing that the data still remains in its original format.

2. Subscribe to an RSS feed to stay up to date on new exploits

Exploit Database and others list fresh exploits for current vulnerabilities.

However, static vulnerability information, such as that found in spreadsheets and ticketing systems, needs to be updated with this new context when an exploit for a vulnerability within your digital estate becomes public knowledge.

Follow the RSS feed or check back frequently to stay up-to-date. Using the CVE codes given for each vulnerability, you may check to see whether any patches address any lingering security holes.

3. Find your vulnerabilities by matching CVE numbers

The 'find/match' method can be used to locate (or, preferably, not locate) any vulnerabilities with fresh exploits if your master vulnerability information is compiled in a spreadsheet or if your systems provide a search feature for CVEs.

If you have any open vulnerabilities, consider reevaluating their risk level and ensure that nothing has changed since you first obtained the data.

4. Using a ticketing system to manage remediation workflow

Using IT ticketing software to delegate fixes to coworkers, keep tabs on their progress, and provide updates to the company is a valuable process.

When all of the information from your penetration tests has been compiled in one place (a spreadsheet, for instance), you can add a column for "assigned user" and then upload the spreadsheet to make "tickets."

Several vulnerability data sources may be connected directly with these ticketing systems to eliminate the need for human data entry.

5. Automate task assignments in your ticketing system

Using ticketing software, you may automatically distribute tickets using various criteria, such as a turn system, a capacity system, or a system based on a user's specific set of skills (whoever is most qualified for a type of work).

The data may be modified by adding a column specifying which team should handle the remediation of a vulnerability and which queue they should be placed in.

6. Using your ticketing system, track the time it takes to resolve issues

Metrics such as average response time, average resolution time, how quickly particular coworkers respond and perform against SLAs, ticket category, tag and priority breakdown — and average ticket numbers may all be tracked using a ticketing system to monitor remediation.

Seeing who resolves problems first might reveal strengths and weaknesses.

Identifying colleagues who require assistance comprehending their remedial guidelines will be easier, which can help make a case for more training or staffing.

7. Have penetration testers directly enter results into vulnerability management software.

Vulnerability testing results may be imported straight into your systems with the help of vendor-agnostic vulnerability management tools.

You may save your team a lot of time and effort by having your suppliers adopt this method and get results in the format they require.

The findings of several threat assessments from any supplier may be easily compiled in one uniform location, thanks to this.

8. Automatically pursue coworkers with vulnerability management software

Automating reminders and chaser emails is a must for most vulnerability management tools, allowing you to spend less time chasing and more time fixing.

The annoyance factor of tracking down busy coworkers manually is reduced when you let your vulnerability management software perform the legwork independently.

Thanks to the software's openness and impartiality, colleagues will have more motivation to prioritize correcting key issues if they can identify which departments are falling behind on their remediation.

9. Integrate scanning & threat feeds with vulnerability management software

To reach the peak of a cutting-edge vulnerability management program, all vulnerability data handling must be automated.

When you integrate them all together, the number of human-made mistakes in managing your threat feeds is reduced to a minimum.

Time formerly spent on mundane data maintenance duties may be reallocated to process improvement and analysis.

10. Use reliable vulnerability management software

The vulnerability management software offers a unique approach to the problem of computer security.

As a preventative measure against future corporate security breaches, it scans for potential entry points in the network and offers advice on how to fix them. It's a clever strategy that helps businesses keep ahead of cybercriminals.

With Scribe, you gain access to a wide range of features that make the vulnerability management process easier.

Keeping your business information safe & secure

Scribe is committed to keeping your information secure and private.

Scribe's growth, goal and vision all center around protecting the privacy and security of its users' data.

Scribe has passed a SOC 2 Type II audit, which included vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, access control, encryption, and data privacy safeguards.

You may be certain that all of your information is secured and safeguarded using access restrictions and alerting and monitoring systems. To guarantee the safe authentication of users, Scribe provides Single Sign-On (SSO) integration, and the company does not share user information with other parties.

Automating process documentation

Automate process documentation to eliminate bottlenecks that slow growth, productivity, and revenue.

Manual process documentation is inconsistent, especially when numerous individuals work on it. That's because everyone has their own style. Biases in process documents lower quality and adoption.

Use process documentation templates, which are pre-defined documents with high-level descriptions of common procedures already included.

In addition, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) might be supported by a process documentation template, which would include both the instructions and the method itself to maximize efficiency.

Eliminating manual steps and improving efficiency, Scribe streamlines the process of documenting business processes. You can always count on the same high-quality results and hassle-free operation.

Improving the productivity of your team

Documentation automation boosts efficiency by decreasing time spent on boring, repetitive procedures. You can avoid using screenshots, writing out lengthy explanations, and switching between different programs. Put on your Scribe recorder and go through the motions of your process. It's literally that simple.

Eliminating manual errors

Scribe keeps a record of the flow of your process and automatically creates papers that use text and images to describe it as it happens. You can go through the document that was automatically created and rapidly add, change, or rearrange content.

Additionally, using Scribe, even human errors may be rapidly rectified. Each stage of a Scribe can have its instructions changed or removed in a matter of seconds.

Use vulnerability management software to keep your business secure

If you want to keep your network secure by reducing the number of threats and exploits that are there, implementing vulnerability management practices is very necessary.

No one solution can completely protect your network from being breached by malicious cyber activity. However, if you continually reevaluate and reinforce the overall security of your network using Scribe, you will have a far higher chance of discovering and preventing cyber trespassers from entering your network.

Sign up for a free trial to Scribe to take care of your vulnerability management process!