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  • Writer's pictureJordan Chadwick

6 Steps for Effective Vulnerability Management

Updated: Sep 6, 2023

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Technology vulnerabilities are an unfortunate side effect of innovation. When software companies push new updates, there are often weaknesses in the code. Cyber criminals are constantly on the lookout for known vulnerabilities to exploit. Software makers (hopefully) address the vulnerabilities with a security patch. The cycle continues with each new software or hardware update.

It's estimated that about 93% of corporate networks are susceptible to cyber criminal exploitation. Assessing and managing these network weaknesses isn’t always a priority for organizations. Many suffer breaches because of poor vulnerability management.

61% of security vulnerabilities in corporate networks are over 5 years old.

Many types of attacks take advantage of unpatched vulnerabilities in software code. This includes ransomware attacks, account takeover, and other common cyberattacks.

Whenever you see the term “exploit” when reading about a data breach, that’s an exploit of a vulnerability. Cyber criminals write malicious code to take advantage of these “loopholes.” That code can allow them to elevate privileges, run system commands, or perform other dangerous network intrusions.

Putting together an effective vulnerability management process can reduce your risk. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Just follow the steps we’ve outlined below to get started.

Vulnerability Management Process

Step 1: Identify Your Assets

First, you need to identify all the devices and software that you will need to assess. You’ll want to include all devices that connect to your network, including:

  • Computers

  • Smartphones

  • Tablets

  • IoT devices

  • Servers

  • Cloud services

Vulnerabilities can appear in many places, such as the code for an operating system, a cloud platform, software, or firmware. You’ll want a complete inventory of all systems and endpoints in your network.

This is a critical first step, so you will know what you need to include in the scope of your assessment.

Step 2: Perform a Vulnerability Assessment

Next, you will be performing a vulnerability assessment. This is usually done by a cybersecurity professional using specialized vulnerability scanning and assessment software. This step could also include penetration testing.

During the assessment, the cybersecurity professional scans your systems for any known vulnerabilities. The assessment tool matches found software versions against vulnerability databases.

For example, a database may note that a version of Microsoft Exchange has a vulnerability. If it detects that you have a server running that same version, it will note it as a found weakness in your security.

Step 3: Prioritize Vulnerabilities by Threat Level

The assessment results provide a roadmap for mitigating network vulnerabilities. There will usually be several, and not all are as severe as the rest. You will need to prioritize which ones to address first.

At the top of the list should be those experts consider severe risk. Reliable vulnerability assessment tools will use the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS). This system categorizes vulnerabilities with a rating score from 0.0 to 10.0, 0.0 being no risk (informational only), and 10.0 being the most critical.

You’ll also want to rank vulnerabilities by your own business needs. If a software is only used occasionally on one device, you may consider it a lower priority to address. A vulnerability in software used on all employee devices would be ranked much higher in the remediation priority list.

Step 4: Remediate Vulnerabilities

Remediate vulnerabilities according to the prioritized list. Remediation often means applying an issued update or security patch. But it may also mean upgrading hardware that might not be supported by the manufacturer.

Another form of remediation that can be used is system or service isolation/air-gapping. This is when you “wall off” an application or device from other systems on the network. A company may do this if a scan turns up a vulnerability for which a patch does not yet exist.

Once you’ve remediated the vulnerabilities, you should confirm the fixes. This is usually done by performing a second vulnerability scan using the same tool as the original scan.

Step 5: Document Activities

It’s important to document the vulnerability assessment and management process. This is vital both for cybersecurity needs and compliance.

You’ll want to document when you performed the last vulnerability assessment. Then document all the steps taken to remediate each vulnerability. Keeping these logs will be vital in the case of a future breach. They also can inform the next vulnerability assessment.

Step 6: Schedule Your Next Vulnerability Assessment Scan

Once you go through a round of vulnerability assessment and mitigation, you’re not done. Vulnerability management is an ongoing process.

In 2022, there were over 22,500 publicly disclosed new vulnerabilities cataloged. Developers continue to update their software continuously. Each of those updates can introduce new vulnerabilities into your network.

It’s a best practice to have a schedule for regular vulnerability assessments. The cycle of assessment, prioritization, mitigation, and documentation should be ongoing.

Get Started with a Vulnerability Assessment

Take the first step towards effective vulnerability management. We can help you fortify your network against attacks. Give us a call today to schedule a vulnerability assessment.

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.


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