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Six steps to effectively manage vulnerabilities and remediation

How_to_Manage_Vulnerabilities_and_Remediation.jpgYou know that your company needs vulnerability management and remediation activities. You need to be compliant with standards and legislation, and many of these will require scanning for vulnerabilities.Furthermore, you know that continuous vulnerability management keeps your systems more secure—which means better business continuity for you, peace of mind for your clients, and boosted morale for your IT department. But what is the most effective way to manage this process? It can be a daunting task, but by following these 6 tips you can manage vulnerabilities and remediation more effectively.

  1. Scan Frequently

Many companies scan frequently enough to ensure they’re compliant with standards and legislation. Unfortunately, these are often minimum requirements, which means they fall short in helping you manage vulnerabilities. Scanning systems annually or even monthly isn’t often enough to address vulnerabilities in an environment where the situation can change on a daily basis. Instead, consider scanning your systems more frequently. More frequent scanning will give you a better idea of where vulnerabilities appear, how often new vulnerabilities come up, and how quickly your team is acting to fix them.

  1. Pinpoint Critical Fixes

The problem with most scans is that they can return hundreds of thousands of items labeled “high,” “medium,” or “low” risk, leading to situations where you have hundreds of items labeled “high” risk. You could opt to fix them all, a time-consuming and tedious task that may not actually improve security. Instead of this, use scanning in conjunction with contextual analysis about critical infrastructure in your systems. Once you have a better idea of which assets are being affected by a vulnerability and which ones are a priority for keeping your business operations running smoothly, you can target these for immediate fixes. Other lower-priority items may be able to wait.

  1. Monitor High-Risk Assets

Targeting your monitoring activities to scanning those assets you consider high-priority or critical to your business is also effective. While this doesn’t mean you should neglect scanning the remainder of the system—lower-priority assets can still pose security risks—you can concentrate your activities on those assets that pose the bigger threats to your operations. This is a more effective and efficient use of scarce resources.

  1. Create Better “Rules” for Patching Vulnerabilities

Instead of telling your remediation team to simply “fix all the high-risk items” on a scan report, you can create more sophisticated rules that allow them to focus their activities on those items that are truly going to make a difference to your system security. Instead, you might tell them to fix all the high-risk items listed on your servers in Toronto—which control your customer-facing ecommerce system. Low-risk items listed on a single, individual workstation located in Vancouver, which have no interaction with systems in Toronto, could similarly slide down to the bottom of the priority list.

  1. Monitor Existing Vulnerabilities

Once you’re aware of a vulnerability, continue scanning for it, even after it’s been patched or flagged for patching. This allows you to keep tabs on the effectiveness of patches, and whether or not anyone is taking advantage of suppressed or non-patched vulnerabilities. Even low-risk items can become a big problem if someone finds them and exploits them, so it’s important to keep an eye on things once you’ve been made aware of them.

  1. Use a Risk-Based Approach

All of these tips help you implement a risk-based approach to manage vulnerabilities and remediation activities in your organization. A risk-based approach allows you to more effectively monitor vulnerabilities, make better decisions about what items to address, and to monitor your team’s effectiveness at implementing patches and improving security. In the end, a risk-based approach helps you save time by focusing your team’s efforts on the biggest threats to your organization and the bottom line.

Download our free guide on a risk-based approach to vulnerability remediation.

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