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Vulnerability Management: What You Need to Know

Vulnerability Management: What You Need to Know

What is Vulnerability Management?

Vulnerability management is an ongoing, regular workflow that identifies and mitigates risks among operating systems, critical OT equipment, applications and services. In recent years, vulnerability management has evolved and now encompasses an organization's full lifecycle; previously, experts utilized asset management, a one-time evaluation of a component or asset on a network. Now, vulnerability assessments are only one portion of the complete vulnerability management system, which includes vulnerability analysis, penetration testing (a manual security assessment that determines network weakness), patch management, network security, training and configuration management.

Risk vs. Threat vs. Vulnerability 

Before we can answer the question, "is my security adequate?" it is important to know the key definitions used within cybersecurity and understand that they are not interchangeable. 

Risk- Cyber risk is the potential consequence of the loss or damage of assets or data that was caused by a cyber threat. Although risk can never be completely removed, it can be managed and kept at a minimal level that suits an organization's tolerance for risk. Risk can be external and come from outside an organization (cyber attacks and ransomware), or internal, from malicious insiders or unintentional security mistakes. 

Threat- Cyber threats are malicious acts that seek to damage or steal data and unhinge a digital network or system. Common examples include computer viruses and data breaches. Threats can be intentional (malware, phishing), unintentional (human errors), or even natural (environmental damage to data). 

Vulnerability- In cybersecurity, a vulnerability is a flaw in the system's design, internal control or security procedures that can be exploited by cyber criminals. In some cases, vulnerabilities can actually be created by cyber attacks. The most common vulnerabilities include networks (flaws in hardware or software), operating systems (viruses and malware changes on behalf of administrators), humans (user negligence) and processes (controls that cause vulnerability). 

A threat and vulnerability management program is an essential component of the infrastructure of any organization. By taking inventory of all vulnerabilities, breaches become preventable. In addition, knowing where cyber attackers can strike allows you to secure those entry points based on internal needs.

Like many elements within cybersecurity, vulnerability management is not a one-time process; systems require updates and maintenance, which bring new risks. As new users, network infrastructures and devices are adopted, additional vulnerabilities are created. Vulnerability management is about staying on top of these updates and the vulnerabilities they may present to your particular network environment.

A Closer Look: The Vulnerability Management Process

For the vulnerability management process to be successful, you must understand three (3) key elements: system components, software management and engineering principles.

First, assets of the system must be logged. The assets that reside in the system or come into contact with the system inherently include the vulnerabilities present within that asset. Without an understanding of all assets, the task of vulnerability management becomes lost.

Second, software management must be observed. Each asset presents a hardware attributed risk and all the software included in each asset presents a threat to the overall system through the privileges and rights each software requires for operation. Thus, without the management of software, vulnerability management is futile.

Third, engineering principles of the system provide a roadmap of connectivity. This roadmap can highlight the risk associated with each known vulnerability. Understanding the engineering principles used to create the system and what asset or communication protocols are required for operation makes vulnerability management a task requiring abundant resources.

How to Develop a Vulnerability Management Program

Once established, a vulnerability management program will become an essential part of your enterprise’s management processes. Setting up a vulnerability management program involves six (6) steps.

1. Inventory: The first thing to do when setting up a vulnerability management system is to take account of your vulnerabilities, configurations and platforms. This usually involves a network and system scan and should be done regularly.

2. Prioritize: Using the established scoring system, the next step is to prioritize the threats to your organization. It is nearly impossible to address every security vulnerability at once, but addressing the most common and severe threats impacts the risk associated with your organization significantly.

3. Calculate: With your risks enumerated and ranked, you should establish a baseline level of risk. This baseline should shift down over time as more vulnerabilities are addressed.

4. Act: With your ranked vulnerabilities, you can begin to address the vulnerabilities of your organization, beginning with the highest priority threats. This may involve malware protection, configuration management and data-driven network monitoring. It’s important to document remediation measures and the correlating vulnerability management tools so they can be easily followed and replicated.

5. Proof: After remediating your risks, it’s necessary to verify that your security goals were accomplished. This usually involves the regular network and system scan you established in the first step. Other options can include external audits or penetration testing.

6. Report: The person responsible for monitoring and managing your cybersecurity services should report their findings to C-level executives for assessment. This report should make clear the organization’s cybersecurity goals, the measures taken to address them and their success. In addition, the final report should suggest solutions in order to improve security control mechanisms, which is a process of continual improvement. 

With these measures in place, vulnerability management will be integrated into your organization’s management processes. As a result, security will be at the core of your organization’s values.

ABS Group: Your Vulnerability Management Partner

Executing vulnerability management for your organization can be conveniently accomplished with the help of an experienced cybersecurity partner. Ask yourself these key questions as you begin the journey to selecting a vendor to support you:

  • Does my organization have experts to address IT and OT devices and processes separately and accordingly?
  • Does my organization have clear goals and objectives around implementing a vulnerability management program?
  • Can my organization fully manage our internal vulnerability management program, including identifying, analyzing, addressing and reporting all potential vulnerabilities?

Contact us today to learn more about our vulnerability management services. We serve organizations from a variety of industries, including marine and offshore, oil, gas and chemical, power and energy, industrial manufacturing and government.


Good cybersecurity hygiene leads to preventative action. Do you have the combined tools you need for complete managed cybersecurity services? Learn about Cybersecurity Asset Management (CSAM) now

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