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Why Is Vulnerability Management Important in Cybersecurity?

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Why is Vuln Management Necessary?

The number and severity of cybersecurity breaches continues to increase. The average cost of a data breach in the U.S. has gone up steadily from $5.4M in 2013 to $9.44M in 2022. The most popular target business sectors are financial, SaaS/webmail and social media, comprising more than 50% of all reported attacks. A favorite method of attack has been to exploit IT security vulnerabilities. And 25,277 new common IT security vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) were identified worldwide in 2022, up from 20,171 in 2021.

Organizations today operate in a hyper-connected world. We load software applications, run programs and process information in the cloud, use networked devices and work with myriad vendors and third parties, presenting a greatly expanded attack surface for cybercriminals. They search your systems for misconfigurations, out-of-date or unpatched software, weak credentials and other holes in your security that make your systems vulnerable to attack. So it makes perfect sense to identify and address those vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by a bad actor. 

Vulnerability management is a critical component of a comprehensive cybersecurity program. It is a regular process for identifying, assessing, and addressing cyber vulnerabilities across an organization’s attack surface. 

Beyond protecting against cyberattacks, vulnerability management is an effective tool for achieving regulatory requirements and demonstrating compliance to frameworks such as the Payment Card Industry (PCI) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) security standards. Vulnerability management results and reports can also be used to help formulate patch programs and plan for attacking patch backlogs.

What is the Vulnerability Management Process?

There are various ways to describe the vulnerability management process, but essentially it has four phases: discover, analyze, address, report and monitor.

Discover: Vulnerability Assessment

The first step in managing vulnerabilities is to identify what your attack surface is and what vulnerabilities exist in that attack surface. This is vulnerability assessment, often performed by an automated vulnerability scanner that identifies your attack surface and searches for known vulnerabilities. Scans can be disruptive so they are often run during periods of light system loads. The result of a vulnerability assessment is a list of all the known vulnerabilities discovered in your system.  

Analyze: Vulnerability Evaluation

Depending on the complexity of your systems and attack surface, a vulnerability scan can list thousands of vulnerabilities. So your security team needs to determine which ones to fix and in what order. A common starting point for determining priorities is the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS), which ranks known vulnerabilities in terms of severity as low (CVSS 0.0-3.9), medium (CVSS4.0-6.9) or high (CVSS 7.0-10.0). But you also need to consider how severe a vulnerability is for your organization – how long it has been in your system, if there is a known exploit for it, how it would impact your business if exploited, etc.  

Address: Vulnerability Treatment

Patching every identified vulnerability is usually unrealistic. After you have analyzed your list of vulnerabilities, you need to take a risk-based approach. Focus on the vulnerabilities that matter most to your operation. Then put each in one of three buckets: remediate, mitigate, accept.

Remediate: These are the vulnerabilities that most affect your organization. For example, they could be in critical systems, or might cause the most financial damage if exploited. You need to patch or otherwise fix these vulnerabilities as soon as possible to prevent any chance of exploitation by bad actors. 

Mitigate: Sometimes fixing a vulnerability simply isn’t currently possible. In these cases, you may be able to take steps to reduce the likelihood or impact of the vulnerability being exploited until it can be fixed properly. You might be able to change authorizations, limit access, or even take a system or program offline.

Accept: These are the vulnerabilities that are relatively low risk or low impact, and those for which the cost of remediation far exceeds the cost of an exploitation. 

Report and Monitor: Review Results and Plan

A good vulnerability management solution will have reporting tools that can provide the security team with vulnerabilities identified along with remediation techniques applied, helping the team to plan for addressing future vulnerabilities. Reporting tools also provide a centralized status of the organization’s security posture, which can help demonstrate adherence to compliance requirements. 

Vulnerability Management Programs and Penetration Testing

Automated vulnerability management tools only take you part of the way to protecting your organization against a cyberattack. They are a viable initial step in determining your cybersecurity posture. A comprehensive cybersecurity process should include penetration testing, or pentesting, performed by experienced security researchers who apply human intelligence to probe systems and simulate cyberattacks. 

Penetration testing can determine if any identified vulnerabilities are false positives, not exploitable and therefore not requiring further action. Most importantly, penetration testing can also identify additional weak spots and other security risks not identified in a vulnerability scan. And pentesting can provide insights into what damage can be done to your organization if a vulnerability were to be exploited by a cybercriminal. 

Manual penetration testing is performed by security researchers who can identify, continuously evaluate and prioritize the most critical and exploitable vulnerabilities in your organization. Get actionable metrics on vulnerabilities found and analysis on which are most severe. Review stats from the testing performed and receive patch efficacy data. With Synack’s pentesting platform, you can even consolidate your vulnerability management process through your existing tools, such as ServiceNow and JIRA, through integrations. 

The Need for Vulnerability Management

Organizations’ attack surfaces are becoming more complex and cybercrime continues to increase. Every organization with a digital presence, whether simple or complex, needs to protect against the risk of cyberattack. And the best way to prevent an attack is to identify all of the vulnerabilities that exist across the organization’s attack surface through vulnerability management programs that include manual penetration testing. 

To learn how Synack’s vulnerability management programs can help protect your organization against cyber threats, go to