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What is a Vulnerability Prioritization Tool and How Do They Work?

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If you’re new to cybersecurity technology or looking to mature your program you’ll quickly come across vulnerability prioritization tools in your research. What are these tools? What do they do? How do they fit into the larger mix? Look no further. We’ve got you covered!

Side note – If you’re already in the market for a vulnerability prioritization tool or past the 101 level, we’ve written a buyer’s guide for evaluating a vulnerability prioritization tool that can help you choose the best solution for you and dive deeper into the details.


What are vulnerability prioritization tools and what do they do?

Under the umbrella of risk-based vulnerability management solutions live vulnerability prioritization tools (VPTs). These tools are supplemental tools to traditional vulnerability assessment scanners. VPTs greatly enhance the maturity and effectiveness of Vulnerability Management programs. Usually companies looking for such a solution are trying to evolve in order to gain a more complete picture of their risk and improve their remediation processes. Vulnerability prioritization tools help security programs evolve in three key areas. 

First, VPTs do a significantly better job of prioritizing vulnerability based on risk than traditional vulnerability assessment scanners. Scanners notoriously only leverage CVSS-based scoring models. CVSS-based scoring models are directional at best because they lack environmental context. A good VPT will incorporate context into the delivered risk score by integrating and pulling data from tools like your scanners, CMDB, threat intelligence feeds, and EDR/XDR.

The second major value-add of a VPT is how they improve remediation workflows. Good vulnerability prioritization tools should integrate bi-directionally with your ITSM ticketing systems to enable the pushing of tickets and the syncing of exception management decisions. Such functionality dramatically reduces the back and forth debates between ITOps and Security teams when it comes to actioning remediation efforts and patches.

The final major value-add a leading VPT provides is a robust reporting suite to help Security teams visualize the state of their risk. Such a reporting suite should be functional enough to provide analysts and day-to-day practitioners with very granular insights, but also be able to serve C-Suites and executives with overarching ROI and progress reports. Ideally, your vulnerability prioritization tool aggregates all of your security insights into a single pane of glass.

Vulnerability prioritization tools are like the bow on the security stack box. They tie everything together nice and neatly. The end result is a dramatic improvement in the efficiency and effectiveness of security programs; especially in those that try to accomplish the above functions with just spreadsheets.


Who uses a vulnerability prioritization tool and why?

VPTs are used by a variety of roles within an organization. A robust VPT will support the data, reporting, and visualization needs across an Enterprise providing a single location from which to track, plan, and respond within a Vulnerability Management program.

CISOs, and other C-Suite staff, may use VPTs as a high-level reporting tool to track the risk to the enterprise at large or in significant segments like business units. Security managers may use VPTs to track remediation efforts, assess the current risk to the enterprise and verify that risk changes are trending appropriately.  Additionally, they may use the data from the VPT to analyze how process modifications may change the vulnerability posture. Finally, they may use the combined data view available in a VPT to recognize gaps in data coverage and determine the appropriate sources from which to cover those gaps. Operations and Vulnerability Management Team personnel will use VPTs to track the daily remediation efforts and determine the appropriate remediation techniques. They will be able to better prioritize those efforts using the data within the VPT.


How does a vulnerability prioritization tool differ from a vulnerability assessment scanner?

VPTs do not perform vulnerability scanning, although some vulnerability assessment scanners (VA scanner) have a VPT component.  Instead, VPTs integrate with VA Scanners to gather data from one or more scanners into a single-pane-of-glass system.  This allows companies to see all of their vulnerability data in one place.  VPTs can collate data from different types of VA Scanners such as static application security testing (SAST), dynamic application security testing (DAST), open source vulnerability scanners, infrastructure scanners, container scanners and configuration system and compliance scanners.

VPTs also allow for the collection and consolidation of more than just VA scanner results.  VPTs ingest data from threat intelligence, configuration management, ITSM ticketing and other sources to provide their users with a more robust data set from which to attack the remediation of vulnerabilities.


What phases of the vulnerability management lifecycle do vulnerability prioritization tools support?

The beauty of a VPT is that it can be used across all the phases of the vulnerability management lifecycle and across all parts of a company’s computer systems.

VPTs combine data from multiple scanners allowing its users to Discover all the vulnerabilities in their system from source code to infrastructure. This full-stack approach allows a company to better understand the range of vulnerabilities and to better characterize the risk to the enterprise.

By combining the data about the specific vulnerabilities with more detailed information from sources like threat intelligence or configuration management systems, VPTs are then able to better Prioritize the vulnerabilities to be addressed than a VA scanner system alone.   

This prioritization should have multiple levels allowing users to better Assess the state of their computer systems and make the appropriate choices on how to address the vulnerabilities given their specific risk appetites and corporate requirements.

VPTs have built in Reporting features, typically at multiple levels of detail. High-level reporting will follow the overall risk or large business unit risk over time to verify that remediation efforts are working.  Detailed reports can be used to group data for remediation teams and feed business systems.

Remediation efforts are also supported by VPTs. Data from the system can be used to group like vulnerabilities for more efficient remediation and mark “False Positive” and “Risk Accepted” vulnerabilities as such. Within the VPT, users can integrate with ITSM ticketing systems to target and track remediation. Additionally, VPTs can provide Remediation teams with insights into the appropriate remediation techniques and requirements for specific vulnerabilities.

With constant syncing to VA scanners, VPTs also provide a mechanism to Verify that remediation efforts are working. They should track which vulnerabilities have been remediated and which are still present. The reporting functionality will provide both detailed and high-level views of the remediation progress.


Where does a vulnerability prioritization tool fit into the larger security tech stack?

VPTs are one part of the expected and standard security tech stack for an enterprise level company.  A robust security program requires the use of a number of technologies to fully protect an organization. No single system can be expected to fully protect against the various cybersecurity threats. To maximize the ROI of a VPT, organizations should invest in a VPT after they’ve purchased and implemented the following technologies:

  • Network security measures such as firewalls
  • User Access Controls 
  • Malware protection such as spam filtering and anti-virus 
  • Data backup and recovery
  • Vulnerability assessment scanner(s)

For more questions about vulnerability prioritization tools we invite you to contact us. Our security experts will be more than happy to help answer any questions you have. Interested in seeing NopSec’s vulnerability prioritization tool in action? You can schedule a demo with us and our experts will walk you through the platform.

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