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What is vulnerability management?

What is vulnerability management?

Threat actors are tirelessly testing your network for easy access to your crucial data and files. By the time you've identified a breach, it's already be too late—the intruders have run off with your data or have brought your operations to a screeching halt.

The best way to stop such disruptions is by identifying and managing vulnerabilities before the threat actors can get in. This is why a vulnerability management program is key for your organization's network and systems integrity.

What is a vulnerability management program?

Rather than react to intrusions after they've occurred, vulnerability management seeks and resolves weaknesses within networks to bolster defenses before they can be exploited. By taking this proactive approach, your organization can give unwanted visitors fewer ways in.

It all starts with a vulnerability scanner, which scans and identifies security holes in your assets, whether those assets are:

  • On premises.

  • In the cloud.

  • In hybrid environments.

Scanning all of these environments betters the chances of catching vulnerabilities before they become major issues.

Once vulnerabilities have been identified, they must be reported and evaluated to determine the likelihood and impact of potential exploitation. After the vulnerabilities have been prioritized, the IT team fixes the vulnerabilities, thereby strengthening your network.

3 major components of a vulnerability management program


  1. Establishing risk tolerance.
    This involves determining which vulnerabilities are top concern so that the IT department knows how to prioritize issues and resolutions. Not all assets are created equal; some assets and data are more important than others.

  2. Identifying vulnerabilities.
    This is the most obvious component of the vulnerability management program. Once you've established your risk profile, it's time to start searching for vulnerabilities.

  3. Remedying discovered vulnerabilities.
    After vulnerabilities have been discovered, IT can start working through its prioritized list of issues and start improving your network's security. 

Vulnerability management vs. penetration testing

Vulnerability management and penetration testing differ in a few key ways:

  1. A vulnerability scan is an automated process; a penetration test is hands-on and requires a real person attempting to exploit systems.

  2. A vulnerability scan does not typically confirm that a vulnerability is exploitable; a penetration test does confirm the exploit.

  3. A vulnerability scan tends to be more affordable than a penetration test.

Why your company needs a vulnerability management program

Businesses can't afford to ignore the inevitability of attempted intrusions.

Every data breach has the potential to disrupt usual business, possibly leading to reduced revenues or increased costs. The cost of a data breach now averages $4.24 million, and is likely to continue growing.

And by taking care of your own network and systems, you're also doing right by your employees and clients. 

Because organizations of every size are potential targets, continuous vulnerability management should be a crucial component of your company's managed security portfolio.

A vulnerability management program is not a one-time event. A single scan reveals potential vulnerabilities for only one moment in time. But a vulnerability management program is a series of scans run at regular intervals (perhaps on a monthly basis).

Infrequent scans may lead to lengthy and overwhelming reports. But regular scans allow you to keep tabs on new vulnerabilities resulting from changes in your network—despite your best efforts, your network is likely to change in some way over time.

It's nearly impossible to improve your security if you aren't aware of the potential holes your company needs to fill in.

Following vulnerability management best practices is one way your business can reduce the chances of a cyber disaster.

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