Understanding the Importance of Vulnerability Management

April 18, 2019 Eric Dosal Eric Dosal

In a lot of the articles that I and the other members of the Compuquip team have posted to the blog, we’ve brought up the term “vulnerability management” fairly frequently. Yet, we haven’t done a post specifically defining the term or explaining the importance of vulnerability management.

To help you establish the importance of vulnerability management within your own organization, here is a quick explanation of what vulnerability and patch management is, why it’s important, and some quick tips for building a vulnerability management program:

What is Vulnerability Management?

There are a few ways to define vulnerability management. For example, CSO Online defines vulnerability management as “the process of staying on top of vulnerabilities so the fixes can be more frequent and effective.” Meanwhile, TechTarget.com defines it as “a comprehensive approach to the development of a system of practices and processes designed to identify, analyze and address flaws in hardware or software that could serve as attack vectors.”

To put it in other words, vulnerability management means working to proactively find and fix potential weaknesses in your organization’s cybersecurity architecture—with the goal of applying fixes before attackers can exploit any vulnerabilities.

However, there is no standardized method of building a vulnerability management program. So, the methodology behind a vulnerability management system may vary from one organization to the next depending on available resources and specific risks.

Why is Having a Vulnerability Management Process Important?

Network vulnerabilities represent security gaps that could be abused by attackers to damage network assets, trigger a denial of service, and/or steal potentially sensitive information. Attackers are constantly looking for new vulnerabilities to exploit—and taking advantage of old vulnerabilities that may have gone unpatched.

Having a vulnerability management framework in place that regularly checks for new vulnerabilities is crucial for preventing cybersecurity breaches. Without a vulnerability and patch management system, old security gaps may be left on the network for extended periods of time. This gives attackers more of an opportunity to exploit vulnerabilities and carry out their attacks.

One statistic that highlights how crucial vulnerability management was featured in an Infosecurity Magazine article. According to survey data cited in the article, of the organizations that “suffered a breach, almost 60% were due to an unpatched vulnerability.” In other words, nearly 60% of the data breaches suffered by survey respondents could have been easily prevented simply by having a vulnerability management plan that would apply critical patches before attackers leveraged the vulnerability.

Building a Vulnerability Management Program

What can you do to create or establish an IT vulnerability management framework in your own organization? There are a couple of ways to build out a vulnerability management program: creating the program internally or using a vulnerability management service from a managed security service provider (MSSP).

When building a vulnerability management program internally, there are several factors that you will need to account for:

  • Inventory Management. You can’t patch what you don’t know you have. Tracking your inventory of assets is crucial for verifying that you have addressed all vulnerabilities in your network. If you have an unknown asset on the network, then you will have unpatched vulnerabilities from that asset.

  • Patch Management. How will you deliver security patches to your network assets? When will patches be applied? Will you have to disable some or all of your network to apply fixes to your major vulnerabilities?

  • Security Testing Solutions. How will you check for vulnerabilities? It’s important to have a comprehensive suite of security testing tools for detecting weaknesses and logging them for future fixes. Checks of external network assets (such as vendor networks, cloud-based applications, and external servers) is also crucial for modern vulnerability assessments.

  • Risk Assessment. What are the biggest security risks revealed during penetration testing? When allocating resources to patch management, it is important to prioritize the easiest to fix vulnerabilities that have the biggest impact on your network security. For example, if there was a vulnerability that could be fixed with less than 15 minutes of work, but would cost you $1 million if an attack leveraged it, that would take priority over a minor bug that would take hours to fix and not affect any critical systems if exploited.

One of the fastest ways to build a vulnerability management system is to use a vulnerability management service. The service provider likely already has a robust set of tools and an experienced team that is used to handling vulnerability and patch management plan build-outs. This helps them build a better vulnerability management system to address security gaps in your organization.

Many organizations decide to use a dedicated vulnerability management service because of how much easier they are to deploy and manage. Plus, it eliminates the need to add dedicated internal staff to the payroll—which helps reduce the cost of vulnerability management.

Need help building an IT vulnerability management program? Reach out to the experts at Compuquip Cybersecurity today to learn more!