For many organizations today, cybersecurity is a high-stakes race, and the winner is the one who finds the weakness first. Most security professionals work against the clock to find and fix system holes before opportunistic malicious actors exploit them. Data security disasters can have debilitating consequences for your business, including financial damage, reputational loss, and even legal repercussions.
This is why vulnerability management has become paramount in the modern, technologically-dependent corporate landscape.
System weaknesses are now a given as companies digitize processes thanks to improving technology and cloud use. Even the greatest defenses have gaps, and today’s security professionals are working hard to find and address any potential weak points. While vulnerability management is difficult and requires specialized expertise, it has become vital to data governance and compliance for contemporary organizations.
In this blog, we will give you a brief overview of what vulnerability management is all about and why it is important, explain how a vulnerability management system works, educate you about the steps involved in the vulnerability management lifecycle, and outline some best practices for you to develop an effective vulnerability management program for your organization.
What is Vulnerability Management?
Vulnerability management is a process using which businesses may find, assess, mitigate, and report security vulnerabilities in various systems and applications that are part of their data and security infrastructure. Now, what is a security vulnerability?
A security vulnerability is a flaw in technology that makes it possible for attackers to access the data held by a system, device, network, database, or application.
There could be a wide variety of vulnerabilities on a corporate network. The organizational environment’s vulnerabilities may be continuously seen through vulnerability management, which helps prioritize remediation efforts by effectively identifying the most important vulnerabilities and reducing the attack surface.
Why is Vulnerability Management Important?
Vulnerability management is essential for the following reasons:
- It protects companies against reputational damage following an unexpected cyberattack
- It shields enterprises from financial damage in the event of a cybersecurity incident
- It aids businesses in adhering to industry compliance standards and best practices
- It helps organizations avoid the associated legal liabilities of a data security breach
- It enables companies to defend their critical data infrastructure against malicious entities
Vulnerability management is essential for businesses because it enables them to find and address vulnerabilities before hackers can take advantage of them, for example, in a zero-day breach.
In addition to improving security, managing your network’s vulnerabilities helps protect sensitive consumer data and privacy rights, which are the subject of many infosec compliance requirements and regulations. To secure systems, safeguard the private information of your customers, and maintain legal compliance with infosec compliance standards like SOC 2, ISO 27001, and PCI DSS, which mention vulnerability management as a critical element, it is essential first to identify potential vulnerabilities.
How Does a Vulnerability Management System Work?
A vulnerability management system instantly flags the most evident gaps in the systems, primarily those areas wide open to cyberattacks. It creates mitigation suggestions for found vulnerabilities using contextual input like business, exploitation, threat, and risk data.
To assist organizations in managing and addressing security vulnerabilities daily, a vulnerability management program continuously assesses, evaluates, fixes, and reports on vulnerabilities. Organizations can use it to find vulnerabilities quickly, deal with the most important problems first, and prevent missing significant flaws.
Next, we will delve into the steps you must take throughout a vulnerability management program’s lifecycle.
Steps Involved In the Vulnerability Management Lifecycle
Vulnerability management is a continuous process. To implement it efficiently over a sustained time period, here are the six steps you must follow:
- Discover Your Assets
You must first create and keep up with your asset directory. In this stage, you make an inventory of the resources in your company, including its software, hardware, operating systems, and services, noting any updated patches that have been implemented. To use as a guide when spotting new vulnerabilities, create a baseline of all known vulnerabilities. Review the inventory occasionally, and make updates when you add new assets such as devices or software.
- Prioritize Your Assets
Sort your assets according to their level of risk and significance to your company’s operations. The assets subject to vulnerability analysis should initially be determined by assigning business values to each asset class. Hardware and software for core company operations should come first.
- Assess Your Vulnerabilities
Place your assets in order of the degree of exposure to particular vulnerabilities after you have generated baseline risk profiles and defined the priority level of your assets. Each asset’s classification, criticality, and vulnerabilities should be considered throughout the vulnerability assessment. To determine the degree of exposure of each asset to particular vulnerabilities, look for publicly available vulnerability lists and risk rankings that support your evaluation.
- Develop Your Asset Security Strategy
Using the risks and priority levels you determined, develop an asset security strategy. Record and report the processes needed to revise each identified vulnerability, and keep an eye out for any unusual or suspicious activity that is most likely to cause harm to your data infrastructure or your more critical assets.
- Address Your Security Issues
Use the security strategy to patch your prioritized vulnerabilities, paying special attention to your high-risk and crucial assets. To safeguard crucial assets and infrastructure, this process often entails updating software and hardware, deploying vulnerability fixes, altering security configurations, and locating weak regions. To undertake some duties that the IT staff used to manage manually, you might need to deactivate particular user accounts, offer more security awareness training, or implement new technologies.
- Evaluate Your Management Process
Evaluating your security plan and confirming that your security measures have successfully decreased or eliminated your prioritized threats are the final steps in the vulnerability management lifecycle. This process should be ongoing with frequent scans and assessments to ensure your vulnerability management rules are effective. It involves multiple steps but is worth conducting to ensure everything is in place.
Lastly, let’s see what best practices can help you implement a great vulnerability management program at your organization.
Best Practices To Develop an Effective Vulnerability Management Program
As mentioned earlier, implementing an effective vulnerability management program can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. However, following these best practices can help you in the process:
- Create a Vulnerability Management Policy
The primary goal of a vulnerability management policy is to provide guidelines for assessing vulnerabilities, implementing system updates to mitigate them, and verifying that the risk has been eliminated.
Vulnerability management rules often cover network infrastructure, but policy coverage might vary by organization size, type, and industry. They can also include flaws in operating systems, database servers, cloud environments, and other things.
- Take Every IT Asset and Network Into Account
Every organization has gears or software that is either not in widespread usage or was implemented without the IT department’s awareness. While they may appear innocuous, these old programs and systems are frequently the most exposed elements of the security architecture and, thereby, are prime targets for potential attackers.
This highlights the importance of conducting an exhaustive inventory of the organization’s hardware and software and scanning all assets for vulnerabilities.
- Use Quality Threat Intelligence Feeds
High-quality threat data can completely change the way you maintain your network security. Being informed of the most recent attack trends and known vulnerabilities, your IT and security teams can stay one step ahead of attackers.
Threat intelligence feeds can enumerate recently found flaws and exploits. The experts who monitor potential dangers maintain these streams. It is essential to access current data to improve automated vulnerability scanners constantly.
- Conduct Regular Penetration Testing
Penetration testing is carried out by ethical hackers working for a company and seeks to find exploitable holes in computing or network infrastructure. It assists companies in identifying and addressing critical flaws that attackers can exploit.
Penetration testing offers objective, professional insight into security infrastructure flaws and can assist in shielding your network from outside attackers. Regular penetration testing is a highly efficient technique to find and repair vulnerabilities when used with other threat management procedures, such as vulnerability assessments.
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