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Security Vulnerability Management

The complex web of systems, platforms, and software powering modern business creates many opportunities for cyberattackers to exploit critical infrastructure and sensitive data. A security vulnerability provides an open door for a malicious actor to enter an environment. Security vulnerability management empowers organizations to manage complexity and close vulnerabilities by proactively identifying, assessing, and remediating weaknesses in their networks, applications, and infrastructure. In this article, we’ll explore security vulnerability management (also called exposure management) and how organizations can effectively manage vulnerabilities and strengthen their security posture.

What Is Security Vulnerability Management?

Security vulnerability management is a structured approach used to identify and remediate vulnerabilities in an ecosystem. By scanning endpoints, workloads, systems, and software, security teams can minimize their available attack surface, prioritize risks, and ensure the integrity and resilience of the organization’s digital environments. Many organizations automate parts of this process by using a vulnerability management solution, a software program that scans systems, networks, and applications, probing them for weaknesses. This data is then fed into a cloud data platform where teams can more effectively monitor key metrics and conduct analysis.

Security vulnerability vs. threat vs. risk

Vulnerabilities, threats, and risks are related terms worth defining. 

  • Security vulnerabilities fall into two categories, technical and human. Technical vulnerabilities are the flaws in hardware, databases, software, or applications that can leave an organization open to attack. Human vulnerabilities are employees who behave in ways that introduce unnecessary risks such as opening a phishing email or mishandling their login credentials. 

  • Threats are the agents ready, able, and willing to exploit these vulnerabilities. Threats can be external hackers attempting to gain access to critical systems or a malicious insider such as a disgruntled employee seeking to do harm from within. 

  • A risk is the likelihood a vulnerability will be exploited by a threat. The severity of a risk depends on a variety of factors, including how well security measures are likely to hold if a vulnerability is exploited, and the level of damage that could occur if the threat was successful. 

Security Vulnerability Management Process

Security vulnerability management consists of a formal process for identifying, evaluating, mitigating, and monitoring security vulnerabilities within an organization. It includes several actions, often done sequentially as part of a continuous cycle of improvement and adaptation. Let’s look at each step individually and examine how businesses can strengthen their security posture, minimize potential exploits, and protect critical assets from compromise.

1. Vulnerability discovery

Security vulnerability management starts with uncovering points of weakness before a bad actor does. Using vulnerability scanning tools and techniques, security teams can actively probe the organization’s systems and networks to identify potential vulnerabilities.

2. Risk analysis

Some security vulnerabilities are more serious than others. By weighing factors such as the likelihood the vulnerability will be exploited, the impact it could have on the business, and how well the current controls and processes are equipped to defend against it, security teams can accurately assess the severity of potential risks associated with each vulnerability.

3. Vulnerability prioritization

For most businesses, resolving every single vulnerability uncovered during the discovery process just isn’t feasible. Prioritizing based on the risk analysis conducted in the previous step helps the security team allocate their available resources more effectively.

4. Remediation planning

A comprehensive plan to address the prioritized vulnerabilities helps ensure they’re resolved quickly and efficiently. During this step, teams assign responsibility, set deadlines, and determine appropriate mitigation measures. Depending on the type and severity of the vulnerabilities, teams may choose one of three courses: resolution, mitigation, or acceptance. 

Resolution remediates the vulnerability completely by fixing the flaw that created it. Mitigation involves taking steps to reduce the chances the vulnerability will be exploited without resolving it completely. This approach is often used when the resources or technology to completely resolve a vulnerability is lacking. Lastly, acceptance is simply choosing to leave the vulnerability as-is. This is a viable option when the resources required to fix it are greater than the risk it presents.

4. Implementation

Executing the remediation plan may involve a variety of actions, including installing software patches, reconfiguring systems, updating access controls, upgrading existing cybersecurity tools and capabilities, or other security measures.

5. Verification and testing

With the remediation plan fully executed, it's essential to validate that it has effectively addressed the vulnerabilities. This may include re-scanning systems to confirm vulnerabilities have been mitigated, conducting penetration testing to verify the newly implemented controls are performing as expected, and so on.

6. Continuous monitoring

Security vulnerability management is an iterative process. New vulnerabilities, emerging threats, and technological advancements are continuously reshaping the security landscape. With initial resolutions in place, teams must keep current with security intelligence, patches, and updates from vendors and security organizations.

7. Periodic reporting

Maintaining detailed records of the vulnerability management process allows teams to document the resolutions they’ve implemented and their effectiveness. This may include vulnerability reports, remediation actions, and related documentation. Regular reporting on vulnerability management activities also promotes more informed decision-making and better resource allocation.

Reduce Your Blast Radius with Snowflake

Snowflake helps organizations level up their threat detection and response capabilities. Teams can rapidly ingest real-time security data and vulnerability alerts into a powerful platform to build robust security metrics and enhance their organization’s security vulnerability management processes. With Snowflake, teams can analyze security data with SQL/Python to build dynamic dashboards with security metrics and examine key risk indicators directly on Snowflake or using their enterprise’s existing business intelligence tools. 

In addition, Snowflake’s robust cybersecurity ecosystem includes vulnerability and exposure management providers such as Tenable One and Wiz. Customers can import vulnerability data from these providers into Snowflake to get a holistic, dynamic, dashboard-driven view of their organizations’ exposure and risk.