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Vulnerability Remediation Process & Management: Why is Remediation so Difficult?

Note: This article was updated in June 2022.

Risk Based Vulnerability management is the ongoing practice of detecting, classifying, prioritizing, and remediating security vulnerabilities in IT infrastructure and applications. For many companies, the remediation stage is where disappointment and frustration can set in. Prioritizing vulnerability remediation is the only surefire way to significantly reduce the risk of a cyber-attack. And if vulnerabilities are not tracked to remediation, the entire exercise is futile.

The challenges associated with remediation are universal. Knowing what to remediate, finding the correct people within the organization, holding individuals accountable and reporting are just a few of the issues. In a previous post, “Mistakes Companies Make When it Comes to Vulnerability Management,” we discussed some of the organizational barriers that limit successful remediation. Below are some additional considerations on how to tackle remediation challenges.

Rank your assets and applications

The sheer number of systems and applications that need to be protected, even in small companies, can make vulnerability management a formidable task. With our customers, we consistently suggest that they rank assets and applications according to importance. This involves understanding exactly where your business-critical information is located as well as the systems and applications that are connected. This requires an in-depth understanding of how users interact with critical business information.

Get off the patching treadmill

I’ve heard it time and time again. Patching vulnerabilities is an endless treadmill, and the extent to which any company invests in this practice depends on the organization’s overall risk tolerance. We still find it shocking to read that it is often not the newer vulnerabilities that catch companies off guard. Bugs in Java, Adobe, browsers, and other popular applications are commonly targeted by cyber-attackers and should receive more attention when it comes to remediation. The cost of not patching can be significant if attackers can use a common and widely exploited vulnerability to infiltrate and escalate network privileges.

Overcome organizational obstacles

Even if you have addressed vulnerability prioritization, the internal process of finding and convincing the correct people in the company to get fixes applied can be a major roadblock. Accountability can be tricky to institute, and vulnerabilities can become a game of “hot potato.” Below are some best practices to deploy in your organization.

  • Focus on the highest risk vulnerabilities.
  • Have a mechanism to notify the appropriate people that they have vulnerabilities to be fixed.
  • Gain management support on remediation timeframes and consequences of not remediating
  • vulnerabilities.
  • Employ a consistent and visible scorecard and/or reports.

If you are looking for a solution to these obstacles, consider using a vulnerability management tool to keep track of and share insights into various vulnerabilities and the remediation process.

What is a vulnerability management tool?

Vulnerability remediation tools are software programs that automatically identify and track vulnerabilities as they relate to your computer network. The system regularly scans digital and physical assets for known vulnerabilities, including suggestions and tips for remediation.

Organizations now conduct their operations using a vast network of interconnected devices and software programs. This makes it difficult for cybersecurity teams to identify and respond to vulnerabilities in real-time, which increases the risk of attack. Instead of running anti-virus and malware tools on each device or program, the vulnerability management tool will scan these assets for weak points that hackers can use to exploit the system. The program reduces incident response times to ensure the organization can remediate the vulnerability before an attack occurs.

The vulnerability management tool uses information from public databases to identify vulnerabilities while ranking their potential threat to the organization based on the asset type and the kinds of data that could be exposed. Incident response teams can then prioritize their remediation efforts around the most urgent threats.

Once the system has identified a weak point, it will include information that the team can use to remediate the vulnerability, including previous remediation methods, previous incident reports, and other comments from cybersecurity professionals.

The vulnerability management software will also track the vulnerability throughout the remediation process. Each vulnerability receives a separate ticket number. Team members can resolve each task once the issue has been resolved. The tool then logs the incident in the system for compliance purposes. Team members can also share this information with management and executives to demonstrate the impact of their efforts.

Vulnerability prioritization tools also keep track of key performance indicators (KPIs) to help the team focus on operational objectives, such as reducing the average incident response time or reducing the overall attack surface within the organization.

What do you look for in a vulnerability management tool?

Vulnerability remediation management tools are often your first line of defense against potential cyber threats, so you need to ensure that the system is up to the task at hand.

The program should be easy to use and compatible with your existing digital infrastructure. It should include everything you need to scan for potential vulnerabilities. You’ll need to map out all of your assets in the system. The testing tool should automatically scan each asset for known vulnerabilities at regular intervals to prevent an attack.

Time is of the essence when responding to a vulnerability. The system should alert you in real-time. You should be able to access this information using a mobile device to stay up to date while on the go. The system should also make it easy to send and share this information, so you can loop in other departments as needed. You should also be able to create custom reports based on the intended recipient.

Your team may not have time to respond to all the vulnerabilities listed in the report. The tool should rank each vulnerability based on its potential threat to your organization, so your team can focus on the most urgent threats most likely to result in an attack.

Ranking vulnerabilities is one of the most important aspects of vulnerability management. The program should rely on a wide range of sources when ranking vulnerabilities to improve accuracy. For example, many incident response teams and management tools rank vulnerabilities using only the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS), but vulnerability’s CVSS score is just one of many factors to consider.

The program should incorporate additional information, such as the number of times the vulnerability has been mentioned on social media and the kinds of information hackers are likely to target, to reduce the number of false positives. These factors can have an enormous impact on the ranking of your vulnerabilities, which can help protect your organization from an attack.

What makes a good vulnerability management program?

Every vulnerability management program is different, but they are all designed to help you prevent a possible cyber-attack. The number of malware incidents has increased dramatically over the last few years, and organizations need to find a vulnerability management tool that can help navigate today’s evolving cybersecurity landscape.

Many incident response teams are now operating with less money and fewer resources than they were before, which can leave organizations vulnerable to attack. The vulnerability management program should ultimately help the team do more with less by automating key aspects of the remediation process.

A good vulnerability management program should also demonstrate its overall value to the organization, so you can show the leaders of your organization that you have made a wise investment. Proving the value of preventing a cyber attack that never took place can be a challenge. Incident response teams should use a tool that keeps track of KPIs to demonstrate their progress and growing efficiency.

Cyber attacks are becoming all too common in the digital age. Your organization needs 24-hour surveillance to prevent the next data breach. Having the right vulnerability management tool can help your team keep sensitive information out of the hands of malicious hackers that want to hold it for ransom. These threats are becoming more advanced all the time, which means you need a management tool that evolves along with the rest of the industry. Use a program that incorporates a wide range of information when identifying and ranking vulnerabilities to make sure the most urgent threats are remediated as quickly as possible.

Unified VRM is vulnerability management software-as-a-service that helps companies to overcome many of the challenges that stand in the way of successful remediation of IT vulnerabilities. To learn more about how to develop a successful vulnerability management approach, download the Best Practices Guide: Vulnerability Management.

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