What is Vulnerability Management?
Part of the answer: It’s foundational to protecting small and medium-sized businesses from cyberattacks.
As a Managed Service Provider (MSP), your clients rely on you to provide comprehensive IT services, including cybersecurity. One critical aspect of a robust cybersecurity strategy is vulnerability management. In this blog post, we'll define the term, why it matters, and how it can help you win the business of small to medium-sized companies (SMBs).
What is vulnerability management?
Vulnerability management is the process of identifying, assessing, prioritizing, and mitigating security vulnerabilities in systems and networks. Vulnerabilities are essentially “holes” in applications that enable a hacker to breach a business and move internally to find the holy grail of private and regulated data and steal it. By proactively identifying and addressing such security gaps, the goal is to minimize the risk of a breach before they can be exploited by attackers.
The process typically involves several steps:
- Asset discovery: Identifying all the hardware, software, and network components that need to be assessed.
- Vulnerability scanning: Using automated tools to scan for vulnerabilities in the identified assets.
- Risk assessment: Evaluating the severity of each vulnerability and assessing the likelihood of exploitation.
- Prioritization: Assigning a priority level to each vulnerability based on risk.
- Remediation planning: Developing a plan to address vulnerabilities, including the most critical ones first.
- Reporting: Providing a detailed report on vulnerabilities and remediation plans.
Examples of vulnerabilities
So, what gaps can a vulnerability assessment help uncover? Here are a few examples:
- Unpatched software: Software that has not been updated with the latest security patches are vulnerable to exploitation. It’s a common route for attackers to gain access to a system or network.
- Weak passwords: Weak or easily guessable passwords increases the risk of a security breach. For attackers, it’s the equivalent of breaking down an open door.
- Misconfigured systems: When a system is not configured correctly, it may be exposing sensitive information, leaving the organization vulnerable to an attack.
- Outdated hardware: If the hardware is obsolete, the risk of an attack goes up due to outdated firmware and software.
- Social engineering: The overwhelming number of security breaches are the result of employee mistakes. Vulnerability management can help identify lack of employee training and awareness around social engineering attacks, such as phishing or spear-phishing attacks.
Why it matters to MSPs
MSPs are ideally positioned to introduce the benefits of vulnerability management to their customers — and it’s especially helpful to frame the discussion in the context of the big picture of cybersecurity. In other words, lean on the NIST Cybersecurity Framework.
The voluntary set of standards, guidelines, and best practices was specifically designed to foster communication about risk and cybersecurity management amongst internal and external organizational stakeholders. If you can explain the framework, your customers will better understand how to prioritize investments and maximize the impact of each dollar spent on cybersecurity (Make sure to read: Understanding the Big Picture of Cybersecurity Starts with NIST)
Divided among five core functions — Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, Recover — the framework places vulnerability management under the "Identify" function, which involves developing an understanding of the systems, assets, data, and people that need to be protected.
Specifically, vulnerability management aligns with the following subcategories within the Identify function:
- Asset management: The management of all assets within a system or network, including hardware, software, and data.
- Risk assessment: The identification and assessment of potential risks to the system or network, including vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers.
- Risk management strategy: The development of strategy to manage identified risks, including prioritizing remediation efforts and implementing mitigations to reduce the risk of a cybersecurity breach.
- Supply chain risk management: The assessment and management of risks related to third-party vendors and suppliers, who may introduce vulnerabilities into the system or network.
How it can help MSPs win more SMB deals
No cybersecurity strategy is complete without vulnerability management. A growing number of MSPs are discovering just how crucial it is to not only build up their own defense and response protocols, but also to help secure their SMB customers amid rising threats.
Here are a few reasons why you should adopt and introduce vulnerability management:
- Protecting client assets: Your clients rely on you to protect their valuable assets, including their data and intellectual property. Vulnerability management helps ensure that their assets are protected against potential security breaches.
- Maintaining client trust: Cybersecurity breaches can cause significant damage to a company's reputation and customer trust. By proactively managing vulnerabilities, MSPs can help maintain their clients' trust in their ability to keep their systems and networks secure.
- Staying compliant: Many industries have regulatory compliance requirements related to cybersecurity. Vulnerability management helps ensure that your clients stay compliant with these regulations and avoid costly penalties.
- Differentiating your business: Offering vulnerability management services can be a valuable way to differentiate your MSP business from competitors and win new business. By providing comprehensive vulnerability assessments, prioritizing remediation efforts, and ensuring compliance with regulations and standards, you can offer clients a more complete security solution that addresses their specific needs and concerns.
- Reducing overall risk: By regularly conducting vulnerability assessments and addressing identified vulnerabilities, MSPs can help their clients reduce overall cybersecurity risk. This can help prevent potential breaches and avoid costly remediation efforts in the future.
- Preparing clients for cyber insurance coverage: The rapid rise of cyber insurance has implications for you and your SMB customers. As SMBs are now first in line to seek coverage, MSPs can introduce vulnerability management to help them meet the insurance requirements and fortify their overall cybersecurity practice. (For more on this topic, see: What Role Does Vulnerability Management Play in Cyber Insurance?)
Vulnerability management is a critical component of any comprehensive cybersecurity strategy, and it's especially important for MSPs. By proactively identifying and addressing vulnerabilities, you can help your clients maintain a strong cybersecurity posture, reduce risk, and stay compliant with regulations and standards.
Offering vulnerability management services can help you differentiate yourself from the competition and win new business. If you're an MSP looking to enhance your cybersecurity offerings, vulnerability management is an excellent place to start.