Your Guide to Vulnerability Management

Identify, Evaluate, and Eliminate Security Weaknesses across Your Entire IT Environment

There’s a lot riding on your IT security. In fact, IBM reports that in 2022 the average cost of a data breach has reached an all-time high of USD 4.24 million. Unfortunately, as your business grows and your IT attack surface becomes more complex, protecting your assets from malicious threat actors demands increasingly proactive solutions. Vulnerability management gives you the visibility and support you need to root out your IT security weaknesses before they can be exploited.

What Is Vulnerability Management?

Vulnerability management is a term that describes the processes, strategies, and tools designed to assess business networks, systems, applications, and devices to identify exploitable vulnerabilities. Rather than simply responding to incursions as they happen, businesses that employ effective vulnerability management can take a proactive and ongoing approach by ferreting out possible attack vectors and securing them.

Vulnerability management is an extension of traditional vulnerability assessment. Although both approaches are designed to help organizations locate potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities, vulnerability assessment is a one-time task with a definite start and end date. Vulnerability management, on the other hand, continuously monitors your organization’s dynamic technology infrastructure and information systems. This ongoing solution applies a cyclical process of constantly discovering, identifying, evaluating, remediating, and reporting.

In other words, vulnerability management begins with a vulnerability assessment, but it then takes things further for a more comprehensive vulnerability solution.

Vulnerabilities vs. Risks vs. Threats

To better understand vulnerability management, it’s also worth taking a closer look at what a vulnerability is — and what it is not. Here, we compare vulnerabilities to risks and threats.

A vulnerability is a term for any method that an unauthorized user might employ to gain access to or control over restricted data. This can include everything from misconfigurations and unpatched software to weak user credentials and ineffective data encryption. Vulnerabilities are not dangerous by themselves; the danger lies in their exploitability. Threats can take advantage of system, application, network, and hardware vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access.

Risk describes the potential damage that could be caused if a threat were to exploit an unresolved vulnerability. Risk is the capability to illegally alter, access, damage, or destroy data or business assets.

Sometimes also known as a threat actor, a threat is any entity that performs the action of exploiting the vulnerability. This can include hackers, cyber terrorists, vandals, competitors, or even insider threats.

Vulnerability management must be capable of identifying and mitigating security vulnerabilities, greatly reducing the risk of those vulnerabilities being exploited by internal and external threats.

The 6 Steps of Vulnerability Management

The vulnerability management process is a systematic approach to continually and effectively addressing vulnerabilities as they arise. And while individual organizations may apply slightly different methodologies, most follow the same basic vulnerability management structure.

This structure consists of the following six phases;

  1. Discovery
    Vulnerability management begins with a thorough vulnerability assessment of all of your IT assets across the entire environment. This assessment must include operating systems, applications, services, configurations, and more. The goal is to correctly identify potential vulnerabilities so that they can be classified and secured. Automated solutions help ensure that this step is performed at regular, consistent intervals to discover any new system vulnerabilities that may have developed between scans.
  2. Prioritization
    Not all vulnerabilities represent the same level of risk. As vulnerabilities are discovered, they need to be divided into groups based on their urgency and their potential to cause damage if exploited. Critical vulnerabilities will be assigned higher priority so that they may be resolved more quickly.
  3. Assessment
    Next, prioritized vulnerabilities must be assessed and assigned a severity score (often based on the US Department of Commerce’s Common Vulnerability Scoring System, although alternative frameworks may also be applied). Assessing the vulnerability means taking into account factors such as ease of exploitability. This will help establish a risk baseline you can refer back to as your vulnerability management strategy evolves.
  4. Remediation
    With the vulnerabilities fully identified and assessed, IT teams can now begin fixing those vulnerabilities in order from greatest priority to least priority. Correct control will help ensure that the remediation phase is effective and that tasks and solutions are being consistently documented.
  5. Verification
    After remediating the vulnerability, you next need to perform an additional assessment to ensure that the vulnerability is no longer active. With a clean scan showing that the vulnerability has been correctly addressed, you can move on to the final phase of the process.
  6. Reporting
    Reporting and documentation should occur on some level during all six phases of the vulnerability management process. That said, this step brings all of your findings and documentation together to generate a final report on the vulnerabilities that have been resolved. These reports will help your IT teams generate improved remediation strategies while also giving company leadership more insight into the current state of IT and risk throughout the business.

Identify and Eliminate Exploitable Vulnerabilities with Ontinue Vulnerability Management

As organizations and business technologies grow together, effective and reliable vulnerability management tools are becoming an essential part of IT security. But with so many aspects of the IT environment to consider and so much riding on your decision, finding the right vulnerability management solution can be difficult. Ontinue provides the answer.

Ontinue Managed Vulnerability Mitigation gives you a hacker’s-eye view of your entire security posture, empowering you with the insights you need to discover and resolve vulnerabilities before they become breaches. With full network visibility, machine-learning enhanced data analysis, and the ability to scan for vulnerabilities across your entire enterprise from a single console, you’ll have the resources and support you need to minimize risk and stop threats as you grow your business.

Track vulnerabilities across your enterprise with Ontinue. Contact us now!