Vulnerability Management Explained

Data breaches are one of the most pressing issues plaguing online businesses today. In the first half of 2020 alone, hackers exposed over 36 billion records from various organizations. Most of these data breaches were successful because they exploited a weak point in the network perimeter or cybersecurity defenses. That’s why it’s so essential for organizations to focus on detecting and fixing these vulnerabilities through comprehensive vulnerability management.

What is Vulnerability Management?

Vulnerability management seeks to find security flaws in a system that hackers can exploit and fix them. It’s a crucial part of cybersecurity measures to help reduce the attack surface on a given network. But before we proceed, we first need to identify what vulnerabilities are.

In a nutshell, a vulnerability is any part of the system that allows someone to gain unauthorized access. Often, these are access points that the system uses to interact with outside entities, such as communication ports or applications. Vulnerabilities can also be created from malware or viruses.

Not all vulnerabilities are equal, however. Some are much more damaging than others when exploited. That’s why vulnerabilities are often ranked in priority, using a scoring scheme called the Common Vulnerability Scoring System, or CVSS. It assigns a score from 0 – 10, with 10 being the easiest to exploit or having the gravest impact.

Why Do We Need Vulnerability Management?

With the complexity of today’s systems and the constant need to stay connected, the risk of data breaches and hacks is all too real. Unfortunately, hackers and thieves are getting more sophisticated by the day, and it’s becoming easier to pass through even the toughest of cyber defenses. This constant, ever-growing threat is the one reason why vulnerability management is required.

Vulnerability management becomes even more critical if you’re relying on third-party software or cloud platforms. Even a software vulnerability on a third-party plugin creates a hole big enough for hackers to gain entry. Likewise, every new software or update you implement is a potential vulnerability waiting to be exploited.

Having a systematic process to fix all loopholes is also essential. All it takes is one slight miscalculation for an entity to break through, strategically moving through the network until it reaches your server or database. 

The Vulnerability Management Process

Different organizations will have distinct approaches on how to manage vulnerabilities in their systems. While the steps and the specifics vary, it’s generally broken down into the following steps:

Discovering

The first step in managing vulnerabilities is to find them first, which is done through vulnerability scanning. But what is vulnerability scanning? It’s a systematic process of going through every component of your system, from the operating system to the configurations, to look for weak points. The tool of choice here is a vulnerability scanner, which works similarly to an anti-virus scanner. But instead of looking for viruses, it compares components against a database of known vulnerabilities.

Evaluating

Once all vulnerabilities are detected, the next step is to assess each. One crucial task is to rank them based on threat level using a scoring system like CVSS. This enables you to prioritize the most dangerous threats that need most of your resources and attention. It’s also essential to make sure the vulnerabilities detected by the scanner aren’t false positives.

Treating

After forming a complete evaluation of each vulnerability, the organization figures out what to do with it. Depending on the threat level and priority, there are three possible actions to take:

  • Remediation is fixing the vulnerability and is the ideal action to take.

  • Often, however, removing the vulnerability isn’t straightforward or possible. In this case, the organization may instead mitigate the vulnerability to lessen the risk while looking for an ideal solution.

  • Lastly, there’s the option to accept the vulnerability. This is a good option if the vulnerability is relatively low risk or when the cost of fixing it is more than the damage it can inflict.

Reporting

The last step is relaying the vulnerability scanning and fixing phase results to the upper management and other concerned stakeholders. Ideally, this is done automatically and regularly, so that IT teams are always on top of vulnerability management.

Vulnerability Management Solutions

The best vulnerability management system needs to have speed as a top priority. Every second that a vulnerability is up is another chance for hackers to breach the network. Therefore, vulnerability solutions and scanners must have a swift turnaround time so that IT teams can act decisively.

This is also the reason why vulnerability scanners should operate in real-time. IT teams should be able to detect threats instantly and not after a long, slow scan. But at the same time, this speed shouldn’t come at the expense of the network endpoint’s performance.

The TokenEx vulnerability management system offers the same fast performance we outlined above. In addition, it includes penetration testing and automated vulnerability management tools to help identify threats against the SANS Top 20 and OWASP Top 10. All findings are then compiled into a risk profile for remediation or mitigation.

Like what you read and want more like it? TokenEx has many more articles on PII compliance, just like this one. Check out the TokenEx blog for more details!

Topic(s): data security

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