Vulnerability Management Automation: A Mandate, Not A Choice

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Cybercriminals are smarter, faster, and more relentless in their attacks than in times past. Data breaches are a serious threat to organizations, but vulnerability management automation can help reduce the number of incidents businesses face each year.

Managing vulnerabilities is difficult in an increasingly connected cyber environment. Companies have their own networks, networks connected to their supply chains, vendor access, remote workers, and other entry points, all creating security gaps. But so do outdated software, security misconfigurations, and other less-obvious vulnerabilities.

Vulnerability management automation is a necessity because it helps IT and security teams find and fix weaknesses before they become active threats. Automating a vulnerability management program is a daunting task, but it is extremely rewarding. Let’s talk about how to manage vulnerabilities with automation and why it’s so important moving into 2023.

What is vulnerability management?

Vulnerability management involves discovering, analyzing, prioritizing, and remediating cyber weaknesses within an organization’s system. The goal is to seal up any gaps that could let unauthorized users and other cyber threats into your infrastructure. When vulnerabilities are managed effectively, weaknesses can easily be found and assessed before they become attack vectors.

Common vulnerabilities

There are many types of vulnerabilities that can lead to a data breach or cyberattack. Weak user credentials, unpatched software, zero-day vulnerabilities, unsecured APIs, misconfigurations, and SQL injection are all common vulnerabilities that organizations need to watch for. If left unattended, the results could be a data breach leading to unauthorized data access, financial fraud, or even a serious attack.

4 stages of vulnerability management

Vulnerability management programs vary from company to company, but they all include four main stages:

  1. Identify
  2. Evaluate
  3. Fix
  4. Report

The first step is to scan the entire network and IT system to identify all the vulnerabilities. Next, each vulnerability needs to be evaluated and prioritized according to its risk to the system and the organization. Then, each vulnerability should be remediated with a patch or some other fix. If there isn’t a solution available, then teams may have to mitigate the risk with additional security measures.

Finally, a key part of vulnerability management is reporting. Reporting is exceptionally important in vulnerability management because it helps improve the organization’s security posture moving forward.

The importance of vulnerability management automation

Gone are the days when a few manual patch jobs would easily secure IT infrastructure.

Organizations are becoming more aware that cyber threats are all around them. Today, 50% of detected vulnerabilities don’t have a CVE for reference. Frauds and bad actors of today use sophisticated tools and expertise to gain unauthorized access to organizations’ networks. They even pose a threat to national security.

Governments have been cracking down on cyber criminals to avoid a catastrophe. In fact, 80% of governments have already established cybersecurity compliance regulations that require regular vulnerability reporting.

Beyond that, vulnerability management automation is crucial to reduce the cost, severity, and containment time. According to a recent report, automation can significantly reduce the impact of a data breach. The Ponemon Institute reports that automation cuts the cost of a data breach in half and shaves off 77 days when it comes to containing threats.

Benefits of vulnerability management automation

Automation offers cybersecurity teams several benefits when it comes to workflows, daily tasks, and managing vulnerabilities more effectively. Identifying and remediating IT risks consumes a lot of time and energy. But with automation, scanning and identifying vulnerabilities is as easy as the click of a button. Plus, automation can be used to mitigate vulnerabilities, execute containment protocols, and so much more.

Here are some of the benefits that vulnerability management automation has to offer:

Improved visibility

AI algorithms don’t have to sleep, they don’t need breaks, and some of them are great at learning how to identify patterns across large amounts of data, even in real-time. Vulnerability management is about detecting and securing IT and customer-facing systems throughout an organization.

As companies continually expand to the cloud, remote endpoints, IoT, and virtual machines, visibility is difficult for human eyes. But automation enables teams to have eyes on the entire ecosystem without all the tedious work behind the scenes.

Simple reporting

One of the biggest benefits to organizations that vulnerability management automation has to offer is the ease of reporting. Government agencies are increasing cybersecurity regulations around the world, which includes regular reporting. There are many reasons why reporting is important, such as spreading the word about new attack vectors, weaknesses, and security postures. But reporting can be a big hassle for organizations.

However, vulnerability management automation actually makes reporting remarkably easy. It helps teams track changes, security audits, efficacy, and other essential data that regulating bodies want to know. With automation, it’s also possible to build and send reports on a recurring schedule so that you never miss a deadline again.

Reduce manual errors

When vulnerability management is left to tools that need to be watched, there is plenty of room for error. Keeping track of updates, fixing configuration mistakes, and monitoring for anomalous activity, all on top of managing vulnerabilities, doesn’t promote the level of thoroughness that is required to keep an organization’s IT system airtight.

In the beginning stages, personnel will need to spend time learning the tools, understanding the reporting system, and making sure that everything is configured appropriately. But after that, automation enables teams to take a more hands-off approach since the automatic tools can scan, find, and prioritize risks without the need for human interaction.

Faster response

One of the best benefits that teams can expect from vulnerability management automation is faster response times. Innately, automated tools enable organizations to keep an eye on their networks 24/7 without interruptions. Not only that, but they also work much more quickly than humans. Applying patches and updates quickly is essential to keep networks secure.

The vulnerability data collected through automation is also helpful when it comes to analyzing an attack. Teams can use the information collected on an exploited weakness to understand the cyberattack on a deeper level and take the appropriate steps to prevent similar attacks from happening in the future. Vulnerability management automation also allows teams to secure the system before a threat actor exploits discovered weaknesses.

Data-driven security

Finally, the greatest benefit of vulnerability management automation is that it allows teams to make security decisions thanks to data. Without collecting important information about a certain weakness in a system, it’s nearly impossible to treat vulnerabilities effectively. Without data, teams are basically using trial and error to secure their organization’s most crucial data.

Data-driven security is all about leveraging data to improve your security posture. Vulnerability management automation equips security, and IT teams with data to effectively fix weaknesses immediately and for future instances. Plus, you can use the data to track changes over time, predict new vulnerabilities when infrastructure evolves, and many other IT applications.

Final thoughts

Modern organizations require modern cybersecurity processes. Vulnerability management alone is an excellent place to begin, but adding automation to the mix takes cybersecurity efforts to the next level. Vulnerability management automation reduces the impact of threats, and the burden on cybersecurity teams and makes it easy to find and fix vulnerabilities.

Learn more about how vulnerability management is changing in 2023.

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