5 Best Practices to Automate Your Vulnerability Management Process

March 7, 2024 · READ

Executing a well-run vulnerability management process is essential to protecting against data breaches and ensuring the availability of your IT infrastructure. The increase in frequency and severity of attacks serves as a stark reminder of the critical need for robust security measures. This includes the recent cyberattack on UnitedHealth, which reportedly processes 15 billion health-related transactions annually, that significantly disrupted patient records and billing systems. Approximately one-third of Americans were victims of medical data breaches in 2023, totaling 133 million exposed health records.

Automation enables continuous scanning and assessment of systems for vulnerabilities, significantly reducing the window of opportunity for attackers to exploit outdated systems or software. Implementing these systems can allow security teams to address the most critical threats first, an approach that’s particularly important given the increasing sophistication of cyberattacks. 

The challenges to executing a well-run vulnerability management program continue to increase as the pool of vulnerabilities grows and as the time to patch these vulnerabilities before they are exploited is reduced. To address these challenges and improve your security posture, you must automate key elements of your vulnerability management program.

1. Automate tasks that minimizes disruption 

With teams dedicated to identifying, prioritizing, and remediating vulnerabilities, the focus has increasingly shifted towards automation to streamline these critical tasks. The rationale behind this shift is simple: automating the vulnerability management process not only accelerates the identification and resolution of security gaps but also minimizes human error and maximizes resource allocation.

For instance, many IT departments heavily rely on specialized ticketing systems for managing workflows and prefer to maintain these familiar processes. Recognizing this, it’s crucial for any chosen vulnerability management solution to seamlessly integrate with these existing systems. This means generating tickets based on smart grouping algorithms — like sorting vulnerabilities by operating system, business unit, or location — to efficiently orchestrate patching or mitigation efforts without overwhelming the system with excessive tickets.

Once created, an advanced vulnerability management process should sync with these ticketing systems, tracking the progress of remediation efforts. From there, the system should either initiate a rescan or alert the responsible team to verify that the vulnerabilities have indeed been addressed effectively.

Moreover, the value of an automated vulnerability management process is significantly enhanced by its integration capabilities with other critical security systems — such as Configuration Management Databases (CMDBs), vulnerability scanners, threat intelligence feeds, and risk management platforms. The deeper these integrations, the smoother the transition to automated vulnerability management will be, impacting fewer stakeholders while elevating the overall security posture.

2. Enable login-free information access 

A vulnerability management process is crucial for maintaining the security and integrity of organizational systems. One key aspect of this process is ensuring that critical tasks are automated, so they do not rely on users logging into the system. Neglecting this could result in overlooked vulnerabilities, delaying crucial remediation and mitigation efforts. For an effective vulnerability management system, the following features are essential:

  • Integrated ticketing: The system should automatically generate tickets with specific due dates across various ticketing platforms, following predefined rules for system selection and vulnerability grouping.
  • Comprehensive information: Each ticket must include detailed information such as vulnerability ID, title, solution, and technical specifics in a format that is both comprehensive and accessible to the remediation teams.
  • Ownership and accountability: Assigning ownership of each vulnerability to specific individuals ensures they receive timely notifications and reminders, fostering a sense of responsibility.
  • Escalation protocols: The system should be capable of identifying each owner’s managerial hierarchy within HR databases to facilitate escalations for unresolved issues.
  • Automated reporting: Scheduling reports for email distribution or network folder placement helps in maintaining transparency and accountability within the process.

3. Implement risk scoring to automate vulnerability prioritization

As with all remediation and mitigation activities, prioritization should be based on the risk to the organization. Calculating the risk of a specific vulnerability on a specific asset considers the impact and likelihood of that vulnerability being exploited on that asset.

Implementing risk scoring is a pivotal step in refining your vulnerability management process. By introducing an automated system, you transition from manual, error-prone methods to a consistent, data-driven approach. Risk scoring evaluates the potential impact and likelihood of threats, thereby prioritizing vulnerabilities based on their severity and the threat they pose to your environment.

Given the sheer volume of vulnerabilities and the resources required for thorough risk-based analysis, automation within the vulnerability management system is not just beneficial but essential. Reflecting this, Gartner forecasts that by 2026, a significant shift towards a continuous threat exposure management program will enable organizations to achieve a two-thirds reduction in breaches, underscoring the value of a risk-based vulnerability management methodology.

4. Provide transparency into results, reminders, and escalations  

Creating transparency with results, reminders, and escalations is essential for maintaining accountability. This means giving everyone involved — from the ground level to top management — a clear view of unresolved vulnerabilities, active tickets, and key performance metrics (KPIs) tied to each responsible party.

Management dashboards play a crucial role here, displaying vital statistics and KPIs such as the average time to remediation, which indicates the average time taken to resolve issues, and service level agreement (SLA) compliance, showing the percentage of tickets resolved before their due date. This visibility ensures everyone understands their responsibilities and the urgency of addressing vulnerabilities.

To further enhance accountability, implement a systematic approach to email notifications and reminders such as alerts for new tickets, weekly summaries of unresolved issues, and reminders as due dates approach or pass. These communications should be tiered: initial reminders to the ticket owners, followed by escalations to their direct and higher-level managers if tickets become overdue. 

5. Choose a system that adapts with your changing needs

Selecting a system that evolves with your organization is crucial for an effective vulnerability management process. A flexible platform is key as it adapts and grows alongside your organizational changes, enhances its processes, and should allow for:

  • Adding new categories and elements within the interface, like assets, vulnerabilities, and threats;
  • Incorporating fresh data sources and updating fields from those already in use;
  • Expanding the notification system to include new alerts, reminders, and steps for escalating issues;
  • Adjusting and refining existing notification frameworks and workflows as needed;
  • Adapting risk assessment methods to reflect current security needs.

The scalability of your vulnerability management platform is fundamental. It must handle an increasing number of assets and vulnerabilities, alongside new functions you wish to incorporate as your automated program expands. For instance, as you aim to monitor more metrics, there will be a higher demand on your computing resources. Similarly, generating more reports and connecting with more data sources will necessitate additional computational power. This adaptability ensures your vulnerability management process remains robust and responsive to your ever-evolving security landscape.

Improve your vulnerability management process with Resolver

Enhance your vulnerability management process with Resolver’s Incident Management Software. By integrating automation into your organization’s vulnerability management strategy, you stand to gain considerably — from heightened accuracy in prioritizing vulnerabilities, minimizing human errors, to boosting your team’s overall productivity. Our solution is designed to align with industry best practices, ensuring your vulnerability management process is not only compliant but also effective and streamlined.

If you’re looking to elevate your organization’s security posture and streamline your vulnerability management operations, consider taking the next step with Resolver. Discover how our Incident Management Software can transform your approach to cybersecurity risks. Request a demo today and see firsthand the difference it can make in your vulnerability management process.

This content was originally written on November 20, 2019, and updated for data and content relevancy.

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