Vulnerability Management Automation: Here’s Why You Need it.

6 Minute Read

Vulnerability lifecycle management is critical for organizations to avoid new vulnerabilities that could compromise their overall security posture and, ultimately, business mission.

Despite this, the processes around vulnerability management are labor intensive. Security teams must continually import, assess, and validate new vulnerability data. Then, teams need to pass mitigation efforts through for approval. Then, you must delegate next steps, and conduct follow-ups and validation – all time-consuming when done manually.

If an organization lacks the available capacity in the existing staff, these extensive monitoring and management efforts are difficult to maintain. If they’re not prioritized, organizations reduce their ability to protect themselves from known vulnerabilities.

As Swimlane Founder Cody Cornell explained in an interview, “We all know with the Internet of Things (IoT) that the proliferation of IP-enabled devices in the enterprise is growing at a rapid pace. As such, organizations’ abilities to track, identify, remediate and validate these vulnerabilities – be it traditional infrastructure, cloud environments, mobile devices or emerging IoT devices – is only going to get more difficult because of device diversity and quantities.”

A strong vulnerability management program is important within the security operations center (SOC). Let’s dive deeper into this ongoing process, and what tools are available to improve it.

What is Vulnerability Management?

Vulnerability management is the process of finding, assessing, prioritizing and remediating vulnerabilities on a network or system. The objective is to close the gaps that could lead to an attack on your infrastructure.

The goal of vulnerability management is to manage risk. Vulnerability management identifies weaknesses in systems to correct before a threat actor exploits them.

What are Cyber Security Vulnerabilities?

Cybersecurity vulnerabilities are weaknesses in a system or network that malicious attackers can exploit to gain unauthorized access. Vulnerabilities can occur across networks and systems, including websites and web applications, cloud computing platforms, mobile applications and devices, operating systems, IoT devices and more.

Vulnerabilities are found during penetration testing and security audits, but they are also discovered by accident when a new feature is being developed or when an old piece of code is being updated.

Examples of Cyber Security Vulnerabilities

Some common vulnerabilities found in an organization’s systems:

  • Unpatched, outdated software
  • Zero-day vulnerabilities
  • Security misconfigurations
  • Unsecured APIs
  • Weak user credentials
  • Broken authentication
  • SQL injection

How are Vulnerabilities Ranked?

Software vulnerabilities are assessed and given a Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) score, from 0.0 to 10.0 to communicate the severity. The National Vulnerability Database (NVD) has associated severity rankings based on the CVSS v3.0 scores:

Severity Base Score Range
None 0.0
Low 0.1-3.9
Medium 4.0-6.9
High 7.0-8.9
Critical 9.0-10.0


What are the 4 Stages of Vulnerability Management?

When building a vulnerability management program, there are four main steps that ensure your team properly handles vulnerabilities:

Identifying Vulnerabilities: The first step is to identify vulnerabilities, often with the help of a vulnerability scanner. Threat intelligence and vulnerability databases can also guide SecOps teams during their search.

Evaluating Vulnerabilities: Once you’ve identified a vulnerability, now it is time to evaluate the risk ratings, severity levels and more. Vulnerability management software can help provide answers, otherwise, SecOps teams must manually dig for information.

Treating Vulnerabilities: Now that the vulnerability is a confirmed risk, it’s then time to prioritize and treat the vulnerability. Ideally, the next step is remediation, with a patch or full fix. If a solution isn’t available yet, mitigation is the next best step. If the vulnerability is a low risk or too costly to fix, some organizations may be okay with the acceptance of the vulnerability.

Reporting Vulnerabilities: Finally, it is best practice to report vulnerabilities to improve your future security response processes. Reporting also helps to support any compliance and regulatory requirements.

How to Leverage Vulnerability Data

In continually monitoring and managing potential security risks and environmental changes, organizations receive large amounts of vulnerability data, both from internal activities such as vulnerability scanning, but also from external sources such as common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVE) and other vulnerability notification services. Both streams of data are extremely useful to an organization’s analysts, as the current security posture of a given host is an important factor in determining the validity and likelihood of a successful attack.

Authorized personnel can strategically leverage the vulnerability data collected from their automated platform by observing and analyzing it in context with the attack. This will help them better understand the severity of the attack and effectively implement proper next steps for remediation. In other words, vulnerability data provides context for network analysts and other related personnel to dig deeper into the breadth of their network attacks, alarms, etc.

What is the Main Challenge of Vulnerability Management?

The longer the vulnerability monitoring and management process are, the greater the opportunity attackers have to breach an underlying network and do significant damage. This is not unlike dwell time for threat response; the slower security teams close gaps, the more opportunity there is for the unsavory to elicit greater damage.

There are plenty of great solutions providers out there that have tried to provide a full lifecycle of scanning, reporting and other various elements of a vulnerability management system. However, it’s important to keep in mind that, like any other processes within a security operations center, no two organizations will approach vulnerability management in the same way.

In other words, one company’s method of scanning and reporting on vulnerabilities is not reflective of the average corporate enterprise environment. Every organization has nuances that it may have to report on. For example, perhaps an organization groups its business units in a specific way and needs to report on them accordingly. Or, something that may appear very simple in the eyes of a vendor, such as an IP address, may store mission-critical data or intellectual property for an organization and must, therefore, be intensely monitored.

Every organization prioritizes, monitors and manages these specific elements based on context, yet many vulnerability management tools today don’t scan or report based on this context.

Adding Automation to the Equation

Having some level of automation enables organizations to more rapidly move activities forward in order to close vulnerability gaps, with as little human interaction as possible.

More automation generally correlates to organizations being able to move more quickly and efficiently with their existing resources—closing gaps faster and more comprehensively—thus increasing the difficulty and closing the time window for attackers to compromise the vulnerabilities that are not yet remediated.

Not only does automation enable organizations to better protect themselves, but it also streamlines and enhances their overall workflow. Let’s give back time to dedicated, hard-working IT staff; let’s have them stop working round-the-clock in order to monitor for vulnerabilities.

Benefits of Automated Vulnerability Management

Automated vulnerability management automatically identifies and remediates risks related to unpatched, unknown and misconfigured systems, endpoints, and cloud services.

Even if an organization already has qualified staff in place, those employees’ time and talent can be better utilized by removing the significant leg work associated with manually monitoring and managing vulnerabilities 24×7.

As such, automated security platforms have emerged as a viable alternative to traditional, manual processing of vulnerability data and notifications. A security automation platform, for instance, will do the following for organizations all in one centralized place:

  • Intake vulnerability notification from 3rd party sources (e.g. US-CERT/NVD) and generate notifications around potential impact, ease reporting and general situational awareness through dashboards and reports.
  • Ingest vulnerability scan data from multiple scanners into a central and standardized data repository for simple reporting and tracking.
  • Automatically assign system owners to specific vulnerabilities, apply customized security scoring, and assist with prioritization based on a variety of sources. These sources could include the vulnerability scanner, but also internal variables that are only known to your organization such as: “Is this system used to service customers, or does it house sensitive data such as Personally Identifiable Information (PII)?”

Swimlane for Automated Vulnerability Handling

There are solutions available that automate vulnerability scans and assist teams to make sense of vulnerability reports, so information is more easily accessible and human-readable. It adds important contextual data leveraging prior scan results, analysts’ notes, and known and accepted risk elements.

Low-code security automation assists your organization with better tracking of assets and risk management. It provides full lifecycle management to continuously identify risks related to unpatched, misconfigured, and unknown systems within an entity. Endless integrations with vulnerability management and patching tools like Tenable and Qualys streamline preexisting processes with automation.

With low-code security automation, you can:

  • Deploy an advanced Vulnerability Management Program that can dramatically reduce risk
  • Build gated processes and workflows into a vulnerability management program
  • Integrate with virtually any other security technology, process, system, or tool
  • Continuously identify and track organizational assets automatically
  • Transform business requirements into a successful vulnerability management program

Swimlane Turbine can work within any threat and vulnerability management program, no matter how unique. The powerful workflows can be easily customized to meet any use case or business processes in use now or in the future.

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