The vulnerability management lifecycle is a systematic approach to managing and mitigating vulnerabilities in an organization's information systems. It typically consists of several steps, including vulnerability assessment, remediation, and ongoing monitoring.
Vulnerability management is a continuous process to review an organisation’s security posture and hence, understanding each step of its lifecycle is important for organisations to continuously protect themselves from emerging vulnerabilities. Read more about vulnerability management - Understanding vulnerability management.
The important steps in vulnerability management lifecycle are as below.
The vulnerability management lifecycle begins by identifying and creating a list of all assets that need to be checked for vulnerabilities. These assets can include software, web applications, operating systems, and devices. It is important to thoroughly discover all assets to prevent vulnerabilities from going undetected in untracked systems or applications.
Tools like network scanners, cloud management consoles and asset discovery platforms can help to accurately account for all assets, including those that are unknown or classified as shadow IT. As part of the iterative process of the lifecycle, future vulnerability management cycles can refine or update the initial inventory by continuing the discovery process.
It's important to prioritize which assets to focus on in a vulnerability management program because not all assets are equally important to a business. High-priority assets are typically those that are essential to normal business operations, lack fault tolerance, or contain sensitive data. Since vulnerability management programs may have limitations in personnel or other resources, it makes sense to prioritize finding vulnerabilities in high-priority assets. Neglecting to address vulnerabilities in these critical systems can increase the risk of compromise and the resulting consequences. Lower-priority assets are not ignored in vulnerability assessments, but they do receive less attention.
The assessment stage involves running traditional vulnerability scans using as much automation as possible. This can be achieved by using dedicated tools that scan web apps, cloud infrastructure, and other assets in the inventory for code vulnerabilities and misconfigurations. To go deeper, consider incorporating penetration testing, in which security experts manually test for vulnerabilities that may be difficult to detect with scanning tools.
After identifying vulnerabilities, it's important to combine this information with the prioritized list of assets and additional contextual information, such as the risk rating of the vulnerability and the level of exposure of the impacted assets. This information will help to accurately report on vulnerabilities and prioritize them for remediation.
It's important to compile the data gathered in the previous steps and present it to relevant stakeholders in the form of documented findings. These reports should be tailored to different audiences based on their need for technical details. For example, executives and other technology decision-makers may require high-level trends presented concisely, while security teams need clear and detailed reports that facilitate efficient remediation efforts, including recommended fixes.
The remediation phase involves taking action to fix a vulnerability, such as applying a security patch, updating hardware, or changing system configurations. If direct remediation is not immediately feasible, it may be necessary to mitigate the risk of a vulnerability being exploited until a fix can be implemented, for example by isolating a vulnerable system from the rest of the network. The severity of the vulnerability and the criticality of the underlying system should be considered when prioritizing remediation efforts.
The verification phase is the final step in the vulnerability management lifecycle and involves verifying that any efforts to remove or mitigate vulnerabilities were successful. This phase may overlap with the discover and assess phases of the next cycle as organizations need to continually scan and assess their IT environments for vulnerabilities. Alternatively, follow-up audits using re-scans or penetration tests can be used to verify that remediation actions were effective.
The vulnerability management lifecycle is an important process for organizations to manage and mitigate vulnerabilities in their systems and networks. Vulnerabilities can arise from a variety of sources, including software flaws, configuration errors, and changes to the operating environment. If left unaddressed, these vulnerabilities can be exploited by cyber attackers to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information, disrupt operations, or cause other harm.
Implementing a vulnerability management lifecycle helps organizations identify and prioritize vulnerabilities, develop and implement a plan for addressing them, and monitor their systems and networks for new vulnerabilities. This helps to reduce the risk of exploitation and protect against cyber threats.
In addition, the vulnerability management lifecycle can help organizations comply with regulatory requirements, such as those related to data protection and security. By implementing a systematic approach to vulnerability management, organizations can demonstrate to regulators and other stakeholders that they are taking appropriate steps to protect their systems and sensitive information.
Vulnerability management is an important part of the information security program. It is a constant process that can benefit from automation. The 6clicks platform provides automates the important steps in vulnerability management and makes it easy to monitor and report the findings. For more information, check our solution page - Vulnerability Management.
6clicks helps organisations adopt a dedicated approach to information security and GRC by providing all the resources and support you need on a single platform. With automation and AI, the platform streamlines and simplifies all the activities that you undertake as part of information security and regulatory compliance. Know more about 6clicks by clicking on the button below.