The ABCs of Good Vulnerability Management & Mitigation

The ABCs of Good Vulnerability Management & Mitigation

Studies show that 93% of corporate networks are currently vulnerable to being breached. This is despite all the cybersecurity processes they put in place, and in many cases, this weakness is due to system vulnerabilities.

Vulnerabilities are introduced regularly anytime a new application is installed, an operating system or software is updated, or a new device is connected to the network. These overlooked flaws in coding provide a loophole for hackers to exploit and can be used for everything from elevating privileges in a system to, breaching sensitive data, to a complete device takeover.

In 2022, there were over 22,500 new common IT security vulnerabilities discovered worldwide, an increase from the prior year of nearly 2,000. To address these and keep them from putting your business at risk takes an ongoing vulnerability management process.

Vulnerability management is part of any good cybersecurity strategy, and while it can sound complicated, it doesn’t have to be difficult if you automate things like vulnerability detection and prioritization using a vulnerability assessment and management app.

Next, we’ll go through the basics of what a good vulnerability management process looks like.

What Does a Good Vulnerability Management Process Look Like?

These are the steps to get you started on a path to reducing your risk by identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities in your network.

Step 1: Identify IT Components

To keep vulnerabilities at bay, you need to identify them early and mitigate them as fast as possible. It’s important to remember that vulnerabilities can crop up in multiple places, including:

  • Software
  • Mobile apps
  • Endpoint devices
  • Cloud tools
  • Network components
  • Operating systems
  • IoT devices

Your initial step is to identify all the potential components of your technology environment where vulnerabilities can exist. Inventory these, as they’ll need to be included in your vulnerability scan.

Step 2: Scan for Vulnerabilities

Next, you’ll want to have a vulnerability assessment done. This is a scan of all the components you identified in Step 1. Scanning can be done by an IT professional using modern tools for vulnerability identification. 

Vulnerability assessment tools tap into databases of known vulnerabilities and look for those throughout your endpoints and other network assets. For example, if there has been a recent Window vulnerability found in a certain OS version, the scanning tool will look for that version in your network, and if found, will scan to see whether or not a patch has been applied.

Any unpatched vulnerabilities are listed by device and vulnerability type, which is often stated by CVE (common vulnerabilities and exposure) number.

Step 3: Prioritize Vulnerabilities According to Threat Level

It’s not unusual for a vulnerability scan to find multiple vulnerabilities in a network. As we noted earlier, new weaknesses are introduced anytime an application is updated or new hardware or software is introduced into the system.

So, most organizations can’t address all vulnerabilities in a single day. Prioritization is needed to identify the vulnerabilities that are the biggest risk to cybersecurity so those can be addressed first.

Some of the ways to prioritize the mitigation order of vulnerabilities:

  • By the CVSS severity score
  • By how often the system with the vulnerability is used
  • By how many staff use the system with the vulnerability 

Step 4: Implement Mitigation

Once vulnerabilities are identified and prioritized, you want to begin remediating them to eradicate them from your network. Remediating these exploitable weaknesses can be done in a few different ways, just depending on the risk of the vulnerability and the available options.

Patching: Your first go-to move should be to apply a patch for the vulnerability if one exists. Many companies end up suffering breaches due to vulnerabilities that had a patch available years earlier, but that the company never applied.

Replacement/Upgrade: If you have a vulnerability in a system that cannot be patched, then it may be necessary to replace or upgrade a device or system. For example, if you have a PC on your network that is still running Windows 8.1 (which was just retired in January 2023), this OS can’t be patched any longer and the device needs to be upgraded.

Silo/Ringfencing: In some cases, you may be running a custom company software on a legacy OS that can’t be replaced right away. If that OS has a vulnerability, then mitigating the risk may be using a silo or ringfencing technique, where the system with the vulnerability is walled off from the network as much as possible.

Step 5: Document Your Vulnerability Activities

All activities, including found vulnerabilities and what was done to remediate them, should be documented. This is for your own IT security records as well as a backup for any compliance audits in the future.

Need Help Putting a Vulnerability Management Process in Place?

Unbound Digital can help your Tri-Cities business get an ongoing and repeatable vulnerability assessment and mitigation process in place affordably. 

Contact us today to get started! Call 423-467-7777 or reach us online.