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November 13, 2023  —  Acronis

What is Vulnerability Management?

Acronis
Acronis Cyber Protect
formerly Acronis Cyber Backup

Vulnerability management is a routine process that involves identifying, evaluating, reporting, managing, and fixing cybersecurity vulnerabilities across endpoints, workloads, and systems. Usually, a security team relies on tools for vulnerability management to detect vulnerabilities and employ methods to patch or resolve them.

An effective vulnerability management program utilizes threat intelligence along with an understanding of IT and business operations to prioritize risks and promptly address vulnerabilities. It is an essential process to ensure your business continuity and prevent any harms to your network.

In this topic we will cover some fundamental aspects of vulnerability management process like:

  • A detailed look at vulnerability management.
  • Vulnerability Risk exposure and risk assessment factors and differences between risks and threats.
  • Importance of Vulnerability Management.
  • Best practices and creating remediation strategies in vulnerability management

On to the topic - What exactly is Vulnerability Management?

Vulnerability management is the process of maintaining the security of your computer systems, networks, and enterprise applications. It involves an approach that aims to protect against cyberattacks and data breaches by following the process of vulnerability detection and assessment. It proceeds with identifying, evaluating, and addressing potential security vulnerabilities, organizations can effectively prevent attacks and minimize any harm, by providing the best vulnerability management solutions.

The primary objective of vulnerability management is to reduce risk exposure for an organization by addressing as many critical vulnerabilities as possible. However, this task can be quite challenging due to the multitude of vulnerabilities that exist and the limited resources available for remediation.

Threat and vulnerability management uses a set of different tools and approaches to prevent any cyber threats. An efficient and reliable vulnerability management program typically includes the following processes and components:

Vulnerability scanners

Vulnerability scanners typically function by running a variety of tests on systems and networks to identify vulnerabilities or weaknesses. These tests are intercepting cyber threats that are trying to exploit known vulnerabilities by guessing default passwords or user accounts, or attempting to gain entry into private areas. By scanning for such a threats they can be prevented on time, before they have caused further damage for the client.

Configuration Management

SCM software has a crucial role in ensuring that devices are configured securely, keeping track of and approving changes to device security settings, and ensuring compliance with security policies. Many SCM tools also come with features that enable organizations to scan devices and networks for vulnerabilities, monitor the progress of remediation actions, and generate reports on adherence to security policies.

Asset inventory and discovery

Managing and keeping track of all the devices, software, servers, and other digital assets in a company's environment can be a difficult task. This complexity is further amplified when organizations have numerous assets spread across different locations. To tackle this challenge, IT professionals rely on asset inventory management systems. These systems offer insights into the company's asset inventory by providing information about what assets are owned, where they are located, and how they are utilized.

Patch management

Patch managеmеnt softwarе is a tool that assists organizations in еnsuring thеir computеr systеms arе always up-to-datе with security program and patches . Thеsе solutions typically comе еquippеd with an updatе chеckеr that notifiеs usеrs whеnеvеr nеw patchеs arе rеlеasеd. Morеovеr, somе patch managеmеnt systеms еvеn facilitatе thе dеploymеnt of patchеs across computеrs within an organization, simplifying thе task of maintaining high lеvеls of sеcurity for еxtеnsivе nеtworks of machinеs.

Security incident and event management

SIEM software is incredibly useful for organizations as it brings together all their security information and events in real time, this feature is a main helper when dealing with any security risks. Its main purpose is to provide visibility into every aspect of an organization's environment, for instance for their IT infrastructure, systems and networks. This involves monitoring network traffic, detecting any attempts by devices to connect with the systems, keeping a record of user activity, and continuous vulnerability scanning. For sure, this is an essential part of the successful vulnerability management process.

Threat intelligence

Threat protection software offers organizations the capability to monitor and process vulnerability scans, analyze, and prioritize threats for security. These solutions gather data from sources, like databases and security advisories. They assist companies in spotting trends and patterns that may indicate a security breach or attack.

Remediate vulnerabilities

Remediating vulnerabilities involves the prioritization of identified issues and potential threats, determining the actions to be taken, and creating remediation tickets for IT teams to effectively address them on time. Additionally, keeping track of remediation progress is crucial to ensure that vulnerabilities or misconfigurations are appropriately resolved.

All these process and features create the complex organism of vulnerability management, combining all these security techniques and solutions provide you with peace of mind for your business organization and network devices. In simple words it is crucial part of your healthy business continuity.

Because as we know the cyber threats and risks are arising with the speed of the light, and they become meaner and more harmful day by day. When using vulnerability management program and security controls implemented in it, you will rest calm knowing that you have done the best you could to protect your most valuable asset today, your data.

What is the Difference Between Vulnerability Management and a Vulnerability Assessment?

Vulnerability management and vulnerability assessment are distinct from each other. Despite the fact that they are related and the one can't proceed without the other, they have a different purpose to serve. A vulnerability assessment is a crucial part of vulnerability management, allowing organizations and businesses to protect their systems and data from cybersecurity threats, breaches and unauthorized access. However, while a vulnerability assessment has a specific start and end date, vulnerability management is a continual process that aims to manage an organization’s cybersecurity vulnerabilities long-term.

Because cybersecurity vulnerabilities can enable hackers to access your IT systems and applications, it’s crucial that you identify and remediate cybersecurity vulnerabilities on time before they can be exploited. A comprehensive vulnerability assessment along with a continual vulnerability management program helps your organization improve the security of its IT infrastructure.

The Evolution of Vulnerability Management

In the ever-evolving realm of cybersecurity, the role of vulnerability management has seen a remarkable transformation. Once perceived as a routine task, it has now matured into a critical component of safeguarding digital landscapes for individuals and business organizations.

Through the years the cyber threats and the risks that we are exposed to have a constant increase, and because of that fact the vulnerability management services have upgraded and improved a lot to meet the needs of the customers. By providing a peace of mind that no matter what happens the customers will be protected 24/7. This type of service has become a crucial part of our everyday life.

Vulnerability Management: A Necessity

Security teams understand the paramount importance of identifying, assessing, and mitigating vulnerabilities in their digital infrastructure. This understanding led to the birth of vulnerability management solutions, by developing constant upgrades and new security technologies and approaches to keep our data safe.

The Traditional Approach

In it's nascent stages, vulnerability management primarily involved the use of vulnerability scanners. These automated tools combed through an organization's digital ecosystem, searching for weaknesses and providing assessments based on the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS). While this was a significant step forward, it had its limitations.

The Cloud Shift

The advent of cloud computing and the subsequent rise of hybrid and multi-cloud environments added layers of complexity to vulnerability management. Security teams found themselves in need of more comprehensive solutions and have entered cloud security posture management (CSPM) as a part of the vulnerability security process.

Vulnerability management in cloud computing refers to a process of identifying, analyzing, prioritizing, and addressing security issues in the cloud.

Essentially, vulnerability management serves as a framework for managing and controlling cloud computing and applications within the cloud infrastructure. The primary objective of these tools is to ensure vulnerability management for AWS, Azure, GCP or other public clouds where workloads are hosted.

This framework not only mitigates vulnerabilities but also ensures that all potential security loopholes and weaknesses are adequately blocked to prevent unauthorized access.

In today's cloud security landscape, vulnerability management has become a component as it actively detects and resolves threats. Given the complexity of cloud computing, including devices, configuration firewalls, and workload containers, where it's important to address and monitor potential security risks proactively.

Automated cloud vulnerability management follows four steps to enhance security within the cloud environment. Firstly, it identifies vulnerabilities through scanning processes. Then it assesses the level of risk associated with each identified vulnerability in relation to the infrastructure. Based on this assessment, it prioritizes which security risks should be addressed first. Finally, it takes action to resolve the identified issues. To confirm that these actions have been effective, rescanning is performed, followed by reporting on the rectification process.

A Holistic View

CSPM complements traditional vulnerability management tools. It offers a broader perspective by not only identifying vulnerabilities within the system but also assessing the overall security posture of cloud-based assets. This is crucial in today's digitally interconnected world.

Integration and Collaboration

The evolution of vulnerability management isn't just about adopting new tools, it's about integration and collaboration. Modern security teams recognize that these components should work in tandem. Vulnerability scanners and vulnerability management tools, and CSPM solutions should harmonize to provide a comprehensive view of an organization's security.

The Future Beckons

As digital landscapes continue to expand, vulnerability management will be central to an organization's cybersecurity strategy. The focus will likely shift towards predictive and proactive approaches, allowing security teams to identify and address vulnerabilities before they can be exploited.

In conclusion, the evolution of vulnerability management reflects the growing significance of safeguarding digital assets. It has shifted from being a task to a strategic imperative. The incorporation of vulnerability trends into cloud security posture management demonstrates the industry's commitment to stay ahead of threats in an increasingly complex digital world. The future of vulnerability management is not only promising but essential component to ensure the security of the clients most valuable assets, their data.

Why is Vulnerability Management Important?

Identifying and addressing security issues before they escalate into cybersecurity concerns is the essence of vulnerability management. This practice safeguards businesses, against data breaches and other security incidents ultimately protecting every company's reputation and financial stability. It is a complex process using a special vulnerability management tool, used in a specific vulnerability management programs, that have the purpose to monitor closely the threats and when needed to take further actions.

Benefits of Vulnerability Management

Vulnerability management plays a crucial role in safeguarding businesses by identifying and resolving security issues before they escalate into major cybersecurity threats. By preventing data breaches and other security incidents, vulnerability management platforms safeguard a company's reputation and financial stability.

Moreover, an effective vulnerability management solution approach enhances compliance with security standards and regulations. Lastly, it empowers organizations to gain an understanding of their security risk posture, pinpoint areas that require improvement, and take the necessary actions.

In today's interconnected world, relying on security scans and reacting to cyber threats is inadequate for ensuring robust cybersecurity. A structured vulnerability management process offers three advantages over ad hoc efforts:

Improved security and controlBy regularly executing vulnerability scanner and patching in a timely manner, organizations can make it significantly harder for cyber attackers to gain access to their systems. Additionally, robust vulnerability management practices help organizations to identify potential weaknesses in their security posture before attackers do.

Visibility and reportingVulnerability management provides centralized, accurate, and up-to-date reporting on the status of an organization’s security posture, giving IT personnel at all levels real-time visibility into potential threats and security weaknesses.

Operational efficienciesBy understanding and mitigating security risks, businesses can minimize system downtime and protect network security. Improving the overall vulnerability management process also decreases the amount of time required to recover from any incidents that may occur at any time unexpectedly. All these three components work in a constant harmony to provide customers with the best results over ensuring robust security for their data.

What Are the Differences Between a Vulnerability, a Risk, and a Threat?

Vulnerability management is crucial for every person and every business organization, and as we discussed above the benefits and the importance of using it, there are some things that confuse a lot of people. Such case is with the difference between vulnerability, a risk, and a threat. Luckily, you are reading the right article, and in the following paragraphs you will understand the difference between these terms. Let's get started and have a closer look at these terms.

A vulnerability, as described by the International Organization for Standardization , is a weakness of an asset or group of assets that can be exploited by one or more threats.

A threat is something that can exploit a vulnerability, and cause further damage for your data.

A risk occurs when a threat takes advantage of a vulnerability. It refers to the harm that can result from the exploitation of an exposed vulnerability, by a threat.

Hope now everything becomes more clear, because understanding these terms is crucial, when talking about vulnerability management.

The Lifecycle of Vulnerability Management

A round of lifecycle in vulnerability management has five stages, so let's dive deeper and take a closer look at what exactly are these five stages, and how are they working.

1. Asset discovery and vulnerability assessment

To start, you need to set up or manage your asset directory. This involves taking stock of all the assets in your organization, such as software, hardware, operating systems, and services. Make sure to note down the versions and applied patches. Create a baseline of known vulnerabilities that can be used as a reference for detecting new vulnerabilities. Regularly, it updates the inventory whenever you add assets, like software or devices.

2. Vulnerability prioritization

Classify your assets based on their risk level and importance to business operations. Assign business values to every asset class to determine which assets should be first for vulnerability assessment. Core business software and hardware should be the priority.

3. Vulnerability resolution and assessment

Once you’ve established baseline risk profiles and determined the priority level of your assets, arrange them according to the degree of exposure to specific vulnerabilities. The vulnerability assessment should consider each asset’s classification, criticality, and vulnerabilities. Research publicly available vulnerability lists and risk rankings to identify the exposure level of each asset to specific vulnerabilities.

4. Reporting and improvement

Develop a plan to ensure the security of your assets by considering the risks and their priority levels. Make sure to document the actions to address any known and potential vulnerabilities, that have been identified and consistently keep an eye out for any activity in order to minimize the overall risk, to the system.

5. Remediation

To effectively address your vulnerabilities, it is important to implement a security strategy. Start by focusing on risk and critical assets, as they require attention. This entails updating both software and hardware systems, applying vulnerability patches, adjusting security configurations, and identifying any areas that may be vulnerable in order to safeguard your assets and infrastructure. Additionally, consider deactivating user accounts if needed, providing additional security awareness training to enhance knowledge amongst users, or even introducing technologies to automate tasks that were previously performed manually by the IT team.

The vulnerability management lifecycle enables organizations to enhance their security stance by adopting an approach to vulnerability management. Rather than simply reacting to discovered vulnerabilities, security teams search for weaknesses in their systems. This empowers organizations to pinpoint vulnerabilities and implement safeguards before malicious actors exploit them.

Continuous Vulnerability Management

Continuous vulnerability management refers to a series of automated processes that assist in maintaining real-time visibility of vulnerabilities and risks across an organization's network.

By automating vulnerability management, organizations can reduce the time it takes to patch vulnerabilities, gain access to enhanced threat data and remediation guidance, and support risk management by prioritizing vulnerabilities based on their contextual risk to the organization's operations.

The implementation of vulnerability management helps minimize the exposure period for vulnerabilities, effectively closing the window of opportunity for attackers. It is also recognized as a security control by CIS, emphasizing its importance in meeting IT security practices and compliance requirements.

Managing Vulnerabilities in the Cloud

Cloud vulnerability management is a term that refers to the continuous process of identifying, reporting, and remediating security risks found within the cloud platform, and cloud infrastructure and the further taken measures on time.

A clear understanding of vulnerability management and a basic knowledge of cloud computing is critical before developing a cyber security measures to effectively manage a cloud computing environment.

Assessing Vulnerabilities

A vulnerability assessment is a process that helps organizations identify, classify, and prioritize security weaknesses in their network infrastructure, computer systems, and applications. These vulnerabilities can potentially expose the organization to cyber threats or risks. To conduct a vulnerability assessment, automated testing tools like network security scanners are often used. The results of these assessments are then presented in a report.

Regular vulnerability assessments can be highly beneficial for organizations facing cyberattacks. This is because threat actors are constantly on the lookout for vulnerabilities that they can exploit to breach applications, systems, and even entire networks. Given that vulnerabilities are regularly discovered in existing software and hardware components, as well as the introduction of new components, for organizations themselves, having a vulnerability assessment coupled with a robust vulnerability management program becomes crucial. By doing so, an organization can effectively address security weaknesses to enhance their overall security posture.

Modern vulnerability assessments rely on automated scanning tools. Here are the main categories of tools used to scan an environment for vulnerabilities:

  • Network-based scanning - This technique is commonly employed to recognize network security attacks. It can also identify systems that may have vulnerabilities on both wired or wireless networks.
  • Host-based scanning - used to identify vulnerabilities on servers, workstations, or other network hosts. This scan aims to identify any ports and services that may be vulnerable allowing us to gain insights, into the configuration settings and patch history of the systems being scanned.
  • Wireless network scans - Organizations often conduct Wi Fi network scans to detect any security vulnerabilities. These scans help identify threats such, as access points and ensure that wireless networks are properly configured for secure usage.

How Do Vulnerability Management Tools Work?

Vulnerability management tools have been created for networks, computing systems, and software programs in order to identify any weaknesses. Once these weaknesses are detected, the tool will initiate actions to address and prevent them. The main objective is to minimize the likelihood of a cyberattack.

Unlike firewalls, anti-malware software, intrusion detection systems (IDS), and antivirus tools, which focus on managing attacks as they happen, vulnerability management tools take a different approach. They proactively search for issues, and resolve them as necessary to reduce the risk of possible attacks.

Prioritizing Vulnerabilities

Vulnerability prioritization involves the process of identifying vulnerabilities and determining their order of importance for remediation. This is based on factors such as impact, exploitability, and other contextual information like asset details, severity, business significance, and threat intelligence. The goal is to address high-risk vulnerabilities and then tackle lower-risk ones, taking into account the objectives and risk tolerance of an organization.

The concept of vulnerability prioritization compares assets in an organization to chess pieces, recognizing that the loss of each piece carries a level of significance. For instance, losing a pawn doesn't create the same level of concern as losing a queen. Given this understanding, organizations, with resources already occupied with daily tasks, don't pursue every vulnerability but rather focus on those that require immediate attention and resolution.

Best Practices in Vulnerability Management

To ensure that your vulnerability management program aligns with compliance requirements, organizations should follow best practices such as:

  • Conducting regular vulnerability scans and assessments: Organizations need to perform vulnerability scans and assessments, that itself is a process of continuously identifying, evaluating, treating, and reporting vulnerabilities. This practice helps minimize the risk to their systems and data, as well as ensure that any known vulnerabilities are appropriately addressed and resolved.
  • Establishing a vulnerability management policy: A vulnerability management policy sets forth the procedures and guidelines governing how an organization handles vulnerabilities. It establishes roles and responsibilities, offers guidance on scanning and reporting, and outlines the steps for addressing and resolving any identified vulnerabilities.
  • Prioritizing vulnerabilities based on risk and impact: It is important to prioritize vulnerabilities according to the level of risk and impact they might have on the organization. This way we can concentrate our efforts, on addressing the vulnerabilities right away.
  • Implementing patches and fixes in a timely manner: Once vulnerabilities are identified, patches and fixes should be implemented in a timely manner to reduce the risk of exploitation.
  • Maintaining accurate and up-to-date inventories of assets and software: It is crucial for organizations to keep precise records of their assets and software. This practice ensures that any vulnerabilities can be recognized and resolved effectively.
  • Staff training and awareness: It is very important for all employees to receive training and understand the significance of vulnerability management and compliance obligations. This will help guarantee that vulnerabilities are promptly reported and that all compliance requirements are fulfilled.

By following these best practices, organizations can ensure that their vulnerability management program aligns with compliance requirements and reduces the overall risk to their systems and data.

Regulatory Compliance

Compliance refers to adhering to legal, regulatory, and industry-specific standards and requirements to ensure that an organization is operating in a lawful and ethical manner. The ultimate objective of compliance is to mitigate risk, protect sensitive data, and maintain the trust of customers and stakeholders.

Managing vulnerabilities is crucial, for meeting compliance goals as it involves recognizing, prioritizing and addressing weaknesses in an organizations systems and software. This proactive approach helps minimize the chances of a data breach, which could lead to financial penalties that can damage the organizations reputation and its ability to stay compliant.

Many regulations and standards require organizations to have an effective vulnerability management program in place. By maintaining compliance with these requirements, organizations can avoid costly fines and other penalties. Here we talk about the regulations like Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, GDPR,HIIPA, SOX, ISO, FedRAMP, NIST, FISMA and CCPA. It is crucial to apply and meet these requirements in order to operate your business following the law of regulatory compliance.

How to Build a Vulnerability Management Program

Whether an organization decides to outsource its vulnerability management to a managed security service provider (MSSP) or develop an in-house program, the management team will collaborate closely with the patch management team to establish a process for applying patches.

To build a successful program, there are seven steps to take into account while implementing a vulnerability management framework and these are:

Step 1 : Make an inventory

Understanding the devices and technologies that affect your organization, as their respective locations is extremely important. Make sure there is a storage system, for keeping track of workstations, laptops, servers and other network assets. These questions are examples of how to map and document potential vulnerabilities.

  1. Does the organization use Macs or PCs or both?
  2. How many mobile devices have VPN access?
  3. Where are the organizations data centers situated geographically?

Step 2 : Categorize Vulnerabilities

One way to gain an understanding of vulnerabilities is by conducting vulnerability scans on both the network and applications. These scans help a lot and categorize any weaknesses in the system. The results of these scans can be delivered to the client based on their frequency, whether they are daily, weekly, or monthly.

After identifying vulnerabilities, then they can be categorized based on their impact on assets and severity levels (such as high, medium, or low). This allows for the prioritization of remediation actions according to the severity level.

This approach proves to be highly effective in using risk ratings and addressing vulnerabilities, as it not only helps in prioritizing risk factors but also provides insights over time through metrics analysis.

Step 3: Explore and create the Packages

It is crucial to have an understanding and evaluation of the issues that require remediation and how they should be addressed promptly. This includes addressing any backlogs and potential risks for the future in order to make decisions.

Thorough research should be conducted on patch dependencies and all patches must undergo verification. Following this, an impact analysis should be carried out to prioritize actions based on the benefits and risks to production.

Step 4: Test the Package

Based on the analysis and research conducted in the package we can test vulnerability remediation, on level or nonproduction systems. Afterwards, we can monitor and provide performance results after applying the patch.

Step 5: Change Management

After completing an examination of a test it is essential to notify the relevant teams, about the necessary patching requirements. Additionally, ensure that you carefully document the associated risks and create a plan for reverting any changes if needed. Finally seek approval, from stakeholders before proceeding with the production rollout.

Step 6: Patch management

Start the remediation process by implementing the newest security patches. First, make sure to schedule the deployment of patches using the provided tools. It is recommended to follow a waterfall rollout approach to minimize any impact on business operations.

Step 7: Post Implementation Reporting

The last step holds value as it contributes to both the learning process and guides decision-making. Once the initiative is finished, it is crucial to evaluate the results, suggest measures for control, and produce activity reports containing metrics. Additionally, it is essential to hold individuals accountable for their actions. If you follow the steps, you will create the best vulnerability management program, resting calm that your program will have success.

Conclusion

In this article, we have covered the most important information about the vulnerability management process. As we understood, the importance of using this weakness management procedure is essential both for individuals and for organizations. Because, as we know, potential threats are constantly increasing and becoming meaner in their approaches to penetrate through every security defense.

Every person wants the best possible security for his own information or for his clients data, and thankfully we have the privilege to use vulnerability management programs in order to accomplish that. We all know the pain of facing disruptive attacks and events, and nobody is insured from facing them, but the best thing we all can do is to get prepared as well as possible. So when tough times come, we will rest assured that we have done the best that we are capable.

As we explained in this article, having a robust vulnerability management strategy will give us this peace of mind, allowing us to rest assured that the data we are storing and responsible for is secured and cyberattacks won't gain unauthorized access to it. We hope that you found this article helpful in making the right steps and decisions to build a successful security strategy for your business organization.

About Acronis

Acronis is a Swiss company, founded in Singapore. Celebrating two decades of innovation, Acronis has more than 1,800 employees in 45 locations. The Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud solution is available in 26 languages in over 150 countries and is used by 20,000 service providers to protect over 750,000 businesses.

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