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What is Vulnerability Management Lifecycle?

The vulnerability management lifecycle is a process for effectively identifying and resolving cybersecurity vulnerabilities. It begins with security professionals discovering, prioritizing, remediating and finally confirming the elimination of vulnerabilities. This lifecycle is cyclical and continuous, with each step building on the previous one. 

What are the different stages of the vulnerability management lifecycle? 

Here are the five main stages in the vulnerability management (VM) lifecycle: 

1. Discovery

The vulnerability management lifecycle starts with the identification and classification of all assets in your environment, from hardware to software and cloud infrastructure. By discovering all assets, organizations can ensure that tests and assessments are conducted on the entire infrastructure to detect vulnerabilities. 

2. Vulnerability assessment

Vulnerability assessment is the process of evaluating flaws in a device or system that could be potentially exploited by attackers. As part of assessment, security teams assign the severity of the vulnerability, potential impact and likelihood of exploitation. 

3. Prioritization

Once vulnerabilities have been identified and assessed, the next stage is to prioritize them based on their level of risk. This step helps security teams streamline their operations, focusing their efforts on more critical vulnerabilities. 

Prioritization can be based on various factors, such as the vulnerability’s severity, the system it affects and the potential business impact on the organization. Per CVE Details, over 10,000 new vulnerabilities have been registered in the first five months of 2023 alone. This sheer amount of vulnerabilities confirms the importance of prioritizing and fixing what matters the most first.

4. Remediation

Remediation involves patching or fixing vulnerabilities to eliminate the risk they pose. Security teams should automate remediation to ensure that patches and fixes are applied promptly, minimizing the risk of exploitation. For example, the automatic assignment of remediation tickets ensures the right owners are notified and service level agreements (SLAs) are clearly defined.

Looking for a framework to improve your vulnerability remediation effectiveness? Read our blog post

5. Verification

This final stage requires the verification if the vulnerabilities have been successfully mitigated and the patch or fix has not introduced new security flaws. This stage of the vulnerability management lifecycle often includes continuous monitoring and periodic reassessment to confirm the effectiveness of the remediation and ensure the sustained security of the system.

Make sure to document the verification process, providing an audit trail and offering insights for future vulnerability risk management activities. 

Want to learn more about the business value and benefits of effective vulnerability management? Watch our webinar

What are the NIST recommendations for the vulnerability management cycle?

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) offers a cybersecurity framework with the best guidelines to protect your operations against IT infrastructure-related risks. Here’s how the pillars of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework can be applied to the vulnerability management lifecycle.

NIST framework categoryActions applied to vulnerability management lifecycle
IdentifyIdentifying and documenting vulnerabilities while evaluating both internal and external threats. This step also includes inventorying and classifying all assets in your environment.
ProtectImplementing safeguards (e.g., deploying cybersecurity tools and enforcing policies) to ensure the delivery of critical services.
DetectContinuously checking for security issues and scanning for known vulnerabilities.
RespondPatching newly identified vulnerabilities, implementing mitigating controls or documenting them as accepted risks.
RecoverImplementing recovery plans and integrating lessons learned during or after a cybersecurity incident.

What are the benefits of establishing a vulnerability management program?

Here are the benefits of establishing a vulnerability risk management program:

  • Better security posture: A robust vulnerability management program helps reduce cyber risks, stay ahead of threats and better manage your attack surface.
  • Enhanced compliance: Many regulations require organizations to have a vulnerability management program to comply with security standards. For instance, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) requires companies that handle credit card data to establish a vulnerability management program.
  • Effective decision-making: VM provides information to help businesses make informed decisions about risk mitigation strategies (for example, which vulnerabilities should be patched first).
  • Improved cost savings: According to the IBM Data Breach Report, the average data breach in the U.S. cost $9.44 million in 2022, an all-time high. Addressing vulnerabilities before they cause security breaches can help avoid downtime and save costs. 

Best practices for managing vulnerabilities 

To better manage vulnerabilities, follow our four best practices:

  1. Implement continuity: Continuously monitor for new vulnerabilities and prioritize the most critical assets. Also take into account that pre-existing, initially non-critical vulnerabilities could become more severe over time.
  2. Take a risk-based approach: Your team should have access to the business context that helps them evaluate risks accurately and prioritize issues more effectively. The VM lifecycle can produce too much data, so leveraging dashboards and reports that track risk from multiple perspectives can help save time and enable informed security decision-making at the business level.
  3. Automate: Leverage technology to reduce human error, save time and ensure accuracy, which is vital for avoiding any critical issues that could pose severe risks to your business. Brinqa streamlines remediation with automated ticketing, notification, validation, exception handling and SLA enforcement. The platform also syncs bi-directionally with popular ITSM tools, such as Jira and ServiceNow. 
  4. Prioritize: Institute a systematic and uniform system for prioritizing vulnerabilities based on context-based risk, which helps remediate the most critical problems for your unique business environment first. 

How can Brinqa help?

The Brinqa Attack Surface Intelligence Platform facilitates the vulnerability management lifecycle process by offering the following capabilities:

  • Centralized repository for accurate cyber risk assessment: Brinqa enables the consolidation of asset inventories and security tool findings into a unified and authoritative repository, thereby serving as a definitive source of truth for managing and assessing cyber risk. 
  • Context-driven prioritization for efficient resource allocation: Brinqa offers a context-based risk scoring system, which considers the relationships among applications, infrastructure, business priorities and the likelihood of potential exploitation. This contextual framework empowers the prioritization of security findings per their relative significance, enabling more efficient allocation of resources and remediation efforts.

Get your VM lifecycle sorted. Book a demo with Brinqa.

Prioritize Cyber Risk

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