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What is Vulnerability Management in Today’s IT Field?


Cybersecurity

A major responsibility of IT security professionals is preventing a cyber attack rather than responding to one. For cybersecurity pros, this requires a proactive approach to anticipate or guard against a hack. It requires constantly assessing the state of information systems to identify potential weaknesses that an attacker could penetrate in a network.

Vulnerability management is the central tenet that drives IT system protection. Many individuals pursuing a career in information security lack a clear understanding of the vulnerability management definition. Here’s a deep dive into the security concepts that serve as the foundation for this vital IT function.

Vulnerability Management: A Proactive Approach to Cybersecurity

Tripwire, an IT news and resource organization, describes vulnerability management as the “meat and potatoes of every comprehensive information security program”. The four high-level processes that define vulnerability management are discovery, reporting, prioritization, and response. Each of these processes and all of their sub-processes must connect in a single continuous cycle that constantly strives to improve network security and eliminate risks. After all, bad actors never stop innovating ways to poke and prod for systems’ weaknesses. Non-stop vigilance is the only way to stop attackers.

A key component of vulnerability management is vulnerability assessment, which uses network scanners and other automated testing tools to identify and classify risks to a company’s information systems. Penetration testing, or “pen testing,” is a related activity that spots potential weaknesses in a system’s defense by applying the same techniques as attackers. These techniques are applied automatically via software or through manual methods. Pen testing is considered a subset of “white-hat hacking” or ethical hacking, which puts defenders in the shoes (and mindset) of attackers. Rather than exploiting vulnerabilities, it discovers and reports them.

Why Vulnerability Management Is Crucial to Businesses               

Nearly every major data security breach is the result of inherent flaws in information networks that serve the lifeblood of today’s businesses. The only way to eliminate vulnerabilities in computer networks, as Amber Record explains in the publication Dark Reading, is automating the process of identifying and closing every security hole in a company’s information systems before attackers can discover them.

Only trained and qualified cybersecurity professionals can implement and manage such automated IT security processes. Additionally, organizations must customize their data security strategies to address their specific needs. Creating a safe environment for a company’s data and applications requires careful attention to three critical elements:

  • The security plan’s accuracy in identifying potential vulnerabilities
  • How easily its test results are interpreted
  • How quickly a team can detect and prevent threats wherever and however they may appear

How Norwich University Prepares Students for a Career in Cybersecurity

To answer the question “What is vulnerability management?”, consider the tools and techniques applied to identify weaknesses in a computer network’s security. These security skills and processes serve as the foundation for the curriculum of Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Cybersecurity (MSCY) degree program.

It is fitting that the first private military college in the U.S. would devise a world-class cybersecurity curriculum focused on the need to protect valuable data assets. In particular, the program’s Vulnerability Management concentration trains students in the latest methods, using open-source tools to perform ethical and legal security assessments.

These are among the core and Vulnerability Management concentration courses in the MSCY program that help prepare students for careers in cybersecurity:

  • Information Assurance Management and Analytics: Covers four essential areas of information security and assurance: management, leadership, policy development, and compliance. Students learn to build consensus and gain support for projects, promote awareness of information assurance, and  apply data analytics for business planning and problem-solving.
  • Human Factors and Managing Risks: Studies how business objectives, user beliefs, and user actions impact the development and implementation of an information assurance plan. Students examine how an organization’s culture influences security awareness, ethical decision-making, and the way behaviors determine the effectiveness of security measures.
  • Vulnerability Management and Penetration Testing I: Features a virtual lab that provides students with an introduction to the open-source Metasploit penetration testing tool as a way to understand network vulnerabilities. Students learn the most common types of exploits and weaknesses and gain experience in assessing enterprise network security controls and reporting on the vulnerabilities they discover.
  • Vulnerability Management and Penetration Testing II: This follow-up concentration course introduces students to advanced open-source vulnerability testing tools, including legal and ethical security tests. In addition to hands-on experience using Metasploit, the course teaches students how to use John the Ripper, Wireshark, and other vulnerability testing and enterprise network monitoring tools.

Essential Skills for Effective Vulnerability Management

CISO Magazine reports that enterprises discover an average of 870 vulnerabilities each day across 960 IT assets in the average corporate network. Organizations need highly-trained cybersecurity professionals who can identify and prioritize the greatest risks to the company, and put together teams to manage and mitigate those risks.  They must know how to apply tools and techniques that identify vulnerabilities and risks.

In addition to expertise in pen testing, security controls and applied data analytics, cybersecurity managers must have the leadership and management skills to guide individuals and teams toward achieving the company’s strategic IT security goals. Any definition of vulnerability management must include project management and communication skills. These competencies are key to motivating employees inside and outside the IT department to adopt the security practices that keep the company’s data assets safe.

A Knowledge-based Curriculum for a Career in Cybersecurity

Preparation is the key to success in any endeavor, and for prospective cybersecurity professionals, being prepared is imperative to addressing and preventing attacks on corporate networks and the valuable data assets contained on them. There are few better ways to gain the skills and experience to qualify for cybersecurity positions than through the knowledge gained by completing Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Cybersecurity (MSCY) program.

Learn more about the Norwich University MSCY program and its Vulnerability Management concentration to prepare for a fulfilling career in information security.

Recommended Reading

The Changing IT Security Job Market
IT vs. OT: Comparing Two Vital Information Security Concepts
A Key Role in Cybersecurity: How to Become a Penetration Tester

Sources

What Is Vulnerability Management Anyway?, Tripwire
Vulnerability Assessment (Vulnerability Analysis), TechTarget
Pen Test (Penetration Testing), TechTarget
Vulnerability Management: The Most Important Security Issue the CISO Doesn’t Own, Dark Reading
Experts Say Prioritization Is Essential to Address Vulnerabilities, CISO Magazine
What Is Vulnerability Management?, Core Security
Cybersecurity Spotlight -- CIS Controls, Center for Internet Security
Master of Science in Cybersecurity, Norwich University