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Managing Vulnerabilities in the Digital Era

Managing Vulnerabilities in the Digital Era

Managing Vulnerabilities in the Digital Era

The modern digital environment is constantly evolving. Today, security leaders of organizations of all sizes in all sectors are tasked with understanding and mitigating an increasingly complex threat landscape. Cyberattackers are utilizing emerging tools and technologies to pinpoint and exploit key vulnerabilities. Therefore, the success of a modern organization rests largely on its ability to identify, analyze, and secure these vulnerabilities. This is what is known as vulnerability management.

This white paper looks at how organizations can identify key vulnerabilities within their security architecture. Moreover, we will examine the best methodologies for implementing a quality vulnerability management program and how this impacts an organization.

We will also explore the various stages of vulnerability management and analyze how each stage works in unison to create an effective cybersecurity solution.

What is vulnerability management?

Vulnerability management is the act of identifying, locating, assessing, and remedying vulnerabilities within operating systems, applications, web browsers, and any other segments of an IT architecture. It is a continuously active, constantly evolving process, corresponding with the evolution of cybersecurity threats such as phishing and ransomware attacks. When it comes to creating a secure infrastructure, protecting key assets, and complying with risk management frameworks, a modern vulnerability management process is essential.

Common vulnerability management misconceptions 

There are a few misconceptions about vulnerability management. Two of the most common are the belief that vulnerability management and patch management are one and the same, and that there is no discernable difference between vulnerability management and vulnerability scanning. 


  • Patch management is one methodology used to mitigate vulnerabilities. Vulnerability management is the combined network of processes that protect the overarching system.
  • Vulnerability scanning uses a tool to scan a system and search for vulnerabilities. It is one of the many methods that should be adopted within the vulnerability management process. 

There are also other misconceptions regarding vulnerability management:

  • Many modern companies believe that vulnerability management can be carried out internally by a team without adequate knowledge and experience. On the contrary, it is an increasingly complex process and should be undertaken by experts.
  • Some security leaders promote the goal of removing vulnerabilities entirely, but vulnerabilities will never completely disappear. Instead, the goal is to prioritize, pinpoint the most important and impactful, and effectively mitigate risk. 
  • It is often considered that the only way attackers can infiltrate a system is through unpatched applications or a technical vulnerability. However, many cyberattackers enter through the ‘front door’ – i.e. through social engineering techniques such as phishing. Therefore, the concept of vulnerability management should extend to creating a robust defense that encompasses best practices and deeper awareness in order to counter these social-engineering-based attacks.
  • Vulnerability management is often thought of as a one-size-fits-all solution. But a solution that works for one organization might not work for another. An effective vulnerability management solution should be tailored to the needs and business goals of the individual organization.

Vulnerability management steps

1. Asset identification

The first step of the vulnerability management process is to identify assets within the organization. An up-to-date asset inventory will enable you to categorize your assets and identify which elements are essential for your business. Examples include tangible assets such as devices, firmware, network devices, or any type of technology component; and intangible assets such as people, data, intellectual property, reputation, etc.  

An up-to-date risk assessment is vital when it comes to understanding the value and vulnerability of your assets and determining which require the most robust protection. This assessment enables you to categorize and prioritize your inventory while identifying which elements are crucial for the core of your business and which would have the most impact if they were affected by a cybersecurity attack.

2. Vulnerability identification

Once assets have been identified and categorized, the next step in the vulnerability management process is to identify which assets are potentially vulnerable and to determine what elements of the infrastructure are potential weak points that could be exploited by a malicious actor. Vulnerability identification is typically carried out using two different methods: vulnerability scanning and penetration testing.

Vulnerability scanning

Vulnerability scans are usually automated. They are typically carried out by a security scanning tool that examines various accessible systems within a security network. These include:

  • Endpoints: Desktop computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc.
  • Databases
  • Firewalls
  • Servers: Both virtual cloud-based servers and physical servers

Common vulnerability scanner tools include Wiz, PingSafe, and Burp Suite.

Penetration testing

Aside from vulnerability scanning, a penetration test (pen test) can also be carried out. Pen testing differs from vulnerability scanning in that they are an in-depth examination carried out by security experts who emulate an attacker’s capabilities to get a better idea of specific vulnerabilities within the system.

3. Vulnerability assessment

Once the vulnerability scan and/or pen test has been completed and the vulnerabilities have been identified, the next step is to assess each vulnerability and categorize them according to their potential risks and outcomes of each being exploited.

Cybersecurity vulnerabilities are identified, defined, and cataloged using a CVE (common vulnerabilities and exposures) value. The severity of vulnerabilities is then measured using the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) – a method used to supply a qualitative metric of urgency when assessing cybersecurity vulnerabilities. When it comes to prioritizing the importance of a vulnerability and determining which weaknesses pose a significant threat to the organization, the following must be considered:

  • The ease with which the vulnerability can be exploited.
  • The impact on the networks, servers, system, and other core business aspects of the organization should the vulnerability be exploited.
  • The way(s) in which the vulnerability could be exploited.
  • The positioning of the vulnerability within the context of the overall architecture
  • How long the vulnerability has existed. 

4. Vulnerability treatment

After the vulnerabilities have been fully assessed and categorized, the security team will collaborate and decide how to treat each one. There are various approaches that can be taken when it comes to acting on security vulnerabilities, including: 


This approach involves the complete elimination of vulnerabilities within systems, networks, and applications. This frequently involves updating or deploying patches using patch management tools. Remediation can also involve updating system, platform, and service configurations, or removing the vulnerable process or function entirely.


In the event that complete elimination of the vulnerability is not possible, security measures may be taken to mitigate the threat posed by the vulnerability. This can involve implementing a temporary solution to alleviate the risk of an attack taking place.  


Not every vulnerability can be remedied. For those weaknesses that pose a low-risk threat to the functionality of the organization, acceptance could be the best form of action. In order for a vulnerability to be accepted, the security team would have to weigh up the risk of the vulnerability versus the cost of remedying it.

How to identify and remedy vulnerabilities promptly

Identifying, addressing, and remedying vulnerabilities can be a difficult task. With so much detail and complexity involved, the process has the potential to stretch resources and budgets, leading to a long-drawn-out, ineffective process.

The best approach to swift vulnerability identification and remediation is a blend of people, processes, and technology. Using these three pillars, organizations can take the following steps to promptly deal with weaknesses: 

  • Categorize: A blend of human expertise and cutting-edge technology can help to pinpoint and organize vulnerabilities quickly and effectively. Automated tools can sift through large amounts of data, eliminating the concern of human error, while a high-level cybersecurity team can provide valuable knowledge and expertise to complement the automation.
  • Prioritize: Sorting vulnerabilities by risk and impact is a fine balancing act. There may be a few difficult issues that need to be addressed, or weaknesses that are easy to fix and can be rectified right away. Swift decisions need to be made by security leaders.
  • Simplify: Your remediation process should be a streamlined, step-by-step process that can be used consistently and effectively. 

Key vulnerabilities and how to manage them

Every organization has different challenges when it comes to cybersecurity. That said, there are a number of common vulnerabilities that affect the majority of organizations – from small businesses and startups to large companies and multinationals. These vulnerabilities can be managed with an effective blend of technical and non-technical, human-based measures. 

Some of the most ubiquitous vulnerabilities and the best practices for dealing with them include:

Weak passwords

Weak passwords are one of the most common vulnerabilities and one of the key weaknesses that attackers can easily exploit. Best practices for managing this vulnerability include implementing strong password policies, such as requiring multi-factor authentication (MFA), using password managers, and enforcing regular password changes. Moreover, an increasing number of organizations are investing in passwordless technology and zero-trust policies.

Unpatched software

Unpatched software can leave your systems vulnerable, as attackers can exploit known vulnerabilities in outdated software. To manage this vulnerability, frequently update your software, implement automated patch management solutions, and conduct regular vulnerability assessments and tests.

Social engineering

Social engineering attacks, such as phishing, can trick employees into disclosing sensitive information or clicking on malicious links. Management practices include providing regular security awareness training to employees, implementing email security solutions, and establishing incident response plans for suspected social engineering attacks.

Insider threats

Insider threats, whether intentional or unintentional (negligence), can pose a significant threat to your business. Businesses should implement access controls, monitor employee activity, conduct regular background checks, and provide regular security training to employees.

Cloud security

Cloud security vulnerabilities can be difficult to manage, as they often involve shared responsibility between the cloud provider and the customer. Best practices for managing this vulnerability include conducting regular security assessments of your cloud environment, implementing MFA, encrypting sensitive data, and monitoring for unusual activity.

Tips on how to manage a vulnerability program

Developing an effective vulnerability management program is a complex process that involves a lot of care and consideration, as well as knowledge and experience. Expert security teams such as managed detection and response (MDR) providers assist organizations with vulnerability management using the following core concepts: 

Continuous assessment

The cybersecurity landscape is constantly evolving. An organization’s infrastructure and key applications will frequently change, meaning regular scanning and continuous assessment is a key part of detecting and dealing with vulnerabilities. Implementing an ongoing, 24x7x365 approach to vulnerability management is crucial to ensuring a robust cybersecurity posture

Performing full scans

Small-scale server and desktop scans are no longer adequate when it comes to searching for vulnerabilities. An effective approach to vulnerability management should encompass the entire attack surface, with comprehensive system scans that cover every potential weak point. Automated scans should also be complemented by cross-functional experts who can analyze and act on potential risks.

Acting decisively

Once vulnerabilities have been identified and assessed, decisive action is required. Human analysis is key when it comes to prioritizing which weaknesses need to be addressed, as well as which actions are required – whether remediation, mitigation, or acceptance.  

Addressing all pain points

Addressing one factor, however important it may be, can lead to organizational blind spots. Security leaders need to take a panoramic approach to ensure every aspect of the organization is considered when it comes to vulnerability management. This includes going beyond internal matters to encompass the entire supply chain, as well as considering both technical and human-based vulnerabilities.

How Ackcent can help you with vulnerability management

More and more organizations are waking up to the reality that effective vulnerability management programs are a necessity rather than a luxury. The rise in volume and increasing impact of data breaches points to the fact that expert measures need to be put in place for organizations to thrive. The most effective of these measures is a managed detection and response service.

Ackcent is a leading provider of managed detection and response services. We provide our clients with a tailor-made cybersecurity solution that addresses their specific needs, leveraging cutting-edge tools and cybersecurity expertise to effectively manage vulnerabilities, assess threats, and adapt to an ever-evolving cybersecurity landscape. 

Our comprehensive cybersecurity solution provides:

  • Identification, assessment, and tracking of assets.
  • Increased visibility across the entire system and network.
  • A blended approach to identifying vulnerabilities, using both agent-based and agentless scanning, including vulnerability scans and penetration tests.
  • A proactive approach to threat detection. We hunt for, analyze, and act on security events to protect your infrastructure.
  • Regular cloud security audits, providing an in-depth examination of the security controls, processes, and overall infrastructure to protect data and other assets within the cloud.
  • Effective compliance management to ensure meeting and exceeding standards required by regulators, customers, and collaborators. 

By adopting vulnerability management tools, techniques, procedures, and best practices, you can minimize weaknesses and secure your organization against cybersecurity attacks. However, for an advanced, fully effective, enduring cybersecurity solution, Ackcent provides you with the right blend of technology and human expertise to protect every facet of your organization.  

Get in touch with an MDR expert today so we can help your organization manage vulnerabilities and build towards a more stable, successful future.