What is Vulnerability Management? How to Reduce Vulnerabilities

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Vulnerability management should be among the highest priorities of organizations, especially within their IT environments. Skybox Security reports, “vulnerabilities have more than tripled over the past ten years.” With this exponential increase, they also report that cybercrime has continuously evolved and become a more complex threat. Vulnerability management aims to assert a level of control over this ever-present issue in the IT space.

Difference between threat, vulnerability, and risk

Threat, vulnerability, and risk are commonly mixed up terms in cybersecurity, but they each refer to different components of cyberattacks.

A threat is anything in the IT space that can damage or destroy an asset or disrupt digital life. A vulnerability is a weakness or gap found within a program, system, or process that can be exploited by a threat actor. Risk is the probability or potential for loss, damage, or harm if a threat successfully exploits an existing vulnerability.

Risk occurs when threats and vulnerabilities intersect.

What is vulnerability management?

Vulnerability management is the process of identifying, evaluating, managing, mitigating, and remediating vulnerabilities in your organization’s IT environment.

The main categories of vulnerabilities that exist in technology are physical vulnerabilities, personnel-based vulnerabilities, configuration vulnerabilities, and application vulnerabilities.
With a solid vulnerability management process in place, you can effectively manage all four categories of vulnerabilities.

What is risk-based vulnerability management?

Because it is extremely challenging to address every vulnerability that exists within your IT environment, it is valuable to prioritize which vulnerabilities are most important to secure. Risk-based vulnerability management is a cybersecurity strategy that assesses vulnerabilities to determine which ones pose the greatest risk and remediate those first.

Why is vulnerability management needed?

Vulnerability management is necessary to keep your organization’s network safe. A vulnerability management process allows you to locate and identify possible weaknesses in your programs or configurations and then monitor or remediate them. The main goal of vulnerability management is to reduce risk to your organization. It is a proactive approach to cybersecurity, which enables greater protection for your IT environment.

How does vulnerability management software work

Vulnerability management software works by scanning to identify and remediate IT vulnerabilities. They possess many features that are essential for effectively monitoring or addressing weaknesses that exist in your business’s network and programs. Three key features of this software include:

Asset detection and discovery

All types of IT assets bring a level of security risk to a business. Keeping track of all these assets within your organization gives you increased knowledge about the level of protection your organization might need and greater visibility into various security issues that might exist.

Vulnerability assessment and detection

This feature scans your network and applications to look for any security vulnerabilities that could be exploited. The vulnerability assessment tool data then uses data gathered from these scans to generate a report and give remediation suggestions. Veracode found that the more these scans are performed, the faster vulnerabilities are remediated.

Real-time monitoring

Continuous and real-time monitoring gives you quick access to up-to-date information about the security of your assets. This information allows the vulnerability management software to quickly identify any settings or behaviors that seem risky and react accordingly.

How to reduce vulnerabilities in your IT environment

Many vulnerabilities can easily be addressed using other tools besides vulnerability management software. To ensure that your organization has the resources to manage inevitable vulnerabilities, take action to harden and protect your assets in advance to decrease their weaknesses. Multiple ways you can reduce IT vulnerabilities are through:

Patch management

Ponemon reports that 60% of security breaches involve unpatched vulnerabilities. Patching is one method used to remediate vulnerabilities in programs, applications, and software. Patch management software can help you keep track of new patches that are released, patches that have been applied, and whether patches are successfully applied to your endpoints.

Endpoint hardening

Endpoint hardening is focused on strengthening your endpoints so they are protected against attacks. These endpoints can include your operating system (OS), accounts, network, applications, and browser. Check out our Endpoint Hardening Checklist for actionable recommendations on how to harden your assets.

Configuration changes

Sometimes there may be flaws in an information system or default settings that may be leaving your organization exposed for an attack. In these circumstances, adjusting the settings and configurations can help to increase the protection and security of a system and minimize the potential risk associated with the flaws.

Password management

Managing passwords effectively enables you to prevent unauthorized access to your network. The enforcement of MFA and 2FA adds another layer of protection as well. Keeping threat actors out of your IT environment is one of the first steps to reducing vulnerabilities.

Network monitoring

Network monitoring gives your organization visibility into what’s happening in your network, which increases your network security. You can use software to alert you when there is any unusual activity or something is compromised. This allows you to quickly take action with an effective response to a security threat.

The importance of vulnerability management

Threat actors continuously attempt to exploit vulnerabilities found within IT environments. Though managing these IT vulnerabilities may take a lot of time and effort, it is essential for the security of your organization. Effective vulnerability management will set a solid and secure foundation for your organization’s cybersecurity.

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