The Rising Importance of Vulnerability Management

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IT security teams are constantly battling to fend off rising numbers of cyber threats, and there’s no relief in sight. A record total of 28,695 new network vulnerabilities were identified in 2021, according to Risk Based Security’s annual Vulnerability Report. At roughly 550 each week, that’s more than most organizations can possibly handle.

In fact, the average organization has a backlog of nearly 60,000 identified but unpatched vulnerabilities, according to a Ponemon Institute survey. It can take a month or more to apply a patch across the computing environment, making it virtually impossible for resource-strapped IT teams to test and apply patches fast enough to keep pace.

That’s a huge problem because unpatched flaws have become an extremely common attack vector. It’s estimated that nearly two-thirds of network intrusions exploit flaws for which patches have been developed but not applied.

The Vulnerability Management Process

The scale of the issue is driving increased interest in vulnerability management software. These solutions continuously scan network systems to identify vulnerabilities, prioritize them based on risk potential and provide remediation suggestions. Top solutions also have integrated patch management features that download needed patches from vendor sites automatically and schedule deployment in staggered intervals to minimize service interruptions.

The vulnerability management market is expected to grow from $6.7 billion in 2020 to $15.86 billion by 2030 at a compound annual growth rate of 9 percent, according to a recent analysis. HPE, IBM, Check Point Software, Dell Technologies and Microsoft are among the leading players in this market.

Generally speaking, these solutions enable a continuous process of identifying, evaluating, remediating and reporting vulnerabilities. Here’s a closer look at each phase:

Identification

Using vulnerability scanners and endpoint agents, vulnerability management solutions inventory networked devices and applications, including laptops, desktops, virtual and physical servers, databases, firewalls, switches, printers and more. Identified resources are then scanned to identify various attributes such as operating systems, open ports and system configurations. This information is then compared to a database of references about known flaws, coding mistakes and configuration errors that can be exploited by attackers.

Evaluation

Once vulnerabilities are identified, they must be evaluated and prioritized based on the severity of risk. Most vulnerability management solutions use the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS), which evaluates flaws and assigns a score ranging from 0 to 10 based on a variety of risk characteristics. These include the likelihood of an attack, probability of financial loss, potential for data exposure and reputational considerations. The scores help organizations determine which vulnerabilities should be addressed first so that they don’t waste time and resources on vulnerabilities that pose minimal risk.

Remediation

Management solutions will generate suggested remediation techniques based on the risk score, allowing organizations to choose the most appropriate response. A high-risk flaw might involve multiple remediation efforts such as patching, deep-packet inspection of incoming traffic and rate limiting to control the volume of network traffic. Lower-risk vulnerabilities may require no action other than continued monitoring.

Reporting

Maintaining accurate records of assessments and responses is critical for improving the speed and efficiency of vulnerability management over time. Having a record of vulnerabilities and how they were addressed can eliminate the need to reinvent the wheel with every security alert. In addition to creating a baseline for future remediation efforts, accurate reporting is often critical for compliance and regulatory requirements.

With cyber threats becoming more frequent, sophisticated and damaging, the ability to quickly identify vulnerabilities and prioritize remediation efforts has never been more important. Give us a call to learn more about using vulnerability management to reduce your risk.

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