ISO 27001 Vulnerability Management + (Free Controls List)

Payal Wadhwa

Payal Wadhwa

Feb 05, 2024

ISO 27001 Vulnerability Management

Staying vigilant can go a long way in preventing risk. A number of threats are known to the organization and can be prevented by implementing simple measures such as strong passwords and firewall configurations. Some others may require more complex measures, constituting a strong security posture. ISO 27001 vulnerability management, therefore, aims to proactively address any weaknesses and fix security gaps.

The ISO 27001 standard focuses on designing and deploying an effective ISMS and vulnerability management is crucial for information security. This blog delves into the stages of ISO 27001 vulnerability management along with the best practices that help secure your ISMS.

What is ISO 27001 vulnerability management?

ISO 27001 vulnerability management is the process of identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities within the organization’s information systems in order to preserve the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of sensitive data.

This involves implementing a set of vulnerability management practices laid down by the ISO 27001 standard and enabling the protection of information assets.

What are the stages of ISO 27001 vulnerability management?

A vulnerability is a weakness in the assets that can be exploited by a malicious actor and can lead to significant risk. Managing vulnerabilities hinges on an iterative approach throughout their lifecycle—from discovery to resolution, validation, and process improvement.

ISO 27001 vulnerability management can be explained in 5 stages:

1. Asset inspection

The initial step is to gain a clear understanding of asset security and take inventory of assets that are most susceptible to vulnerabilities. This could involve employment of methods such as physical inspection, configuration review, network traffic analysis, log analysis, and more.

2. Discovery and evaluation

Assessing vulnerabilities efficiently requires conducting both periodical internal and external vulnerability scans. Utilizing vulnerability scanning tools like Qualys and Nessus can help streamline the process. Penetration tests can also provide crucial insights on potential vulnerabilities.

Common vulnerability scanning systems (CVSS) typically scores severity on a scale of 0 to 10, 0 being the least severe. Most scanners incorporate these scores in their reports, aiding in better decision-making.
However, it is important to consider vulnerability visibility, exploitability, and impact while drafting a tactical plan that addresses all critical aspects.

3. Initiate the action plan

The next appropriate step is to apply risk response strategies. The tactical plan for each type of vulnerability depends on complexity and timing.

  • Risk acceptance: This strategy involves acknowledging the risks that align with an organization’s risk appetite. These must be documented to clarify that no action will be taken for remediation.
  • Risk transfer: Risk transfer is shifting the responsibility of action to other parties. You can sign vendor contracts, get insurance
  • Risk mitigation: Mitigation measures reduce the probability or impact of risk. For example, implementing security controls like access controls, MFA, antivirus, employing secure coding practices, educating, and training staff etc.
  • Risk remediation: Risk remediation aims to remove the threat/risk. Examples include, applying patches and updates, reviewing codes, making configuration changes etc.

4. Verify remediation

Vulnerability management is a cyclical exercise of continuous assessment and remediation. It is imperative to set up a process to reassess the effectiveness of risk treatment efforts.
The reassessment includes validating the implementation of corrective action and conducting a follow-up scan to ensure continued protection.

5. Document and review regularly

Documentation is necessary compliance evidence for vulnerability management. Everything from the asset inventory and policies to the assessment process and remediation plan must be documented.Regular monitoring mechanisms help catch and resolve any patterns of recurrence.

Also read: Implementation of ISO 27001 incident management plan

How to approach vulnerability management under ISO 27001?

ISO 27001:2022 Annex 8.8 talks about the management of technical vulnerabilities by way of identifying, evaluating and addressing them. ISO 27001 has therefore issued a list of best practices for achieving these security controls.

These best practices include:

1. Create an asset inventory

In the context of ISO 27001, an asset is everything valuable including information, hardware, software, people, services and intangible things like IP and loyalty. 

The right way to create an asset inventory is to categorize them based on relevant factors, record important attributes like location, asset owner and other relevant details and group them based on sensitivity.

2. Outline roles and responsibilities

Vulnerability management is executed in phases, with several job functions involved depending upon the size of the organization. 

While an information security manager could be handling the strategic tasks like planning and chalking out SOPs, a security engineer may validate and triage an identified vulnerability. In larger organizations there could also be assessment analysts, incident response teams, network admins and compliance officers.

3. Establish deadlines for reaction

Defining a timeframe for response is crucial for various reasons—there could be time-sensitive vulnerabilities, immediate need for risk reduction, compliance requirement deadlines and operational continuity risks.

The timelines should be outlined based on severity, impact, dependencies and compliance requirements while ensuring they are achievable. It is equally important to document and communicate these timelines for establishing clarity and accountability.

4. Log and track events for audits

For ISO 27001, capturing relevant activities throughout the vulnerability management cycle is crucial. All actions including date, timestamp, systems and people involved must be recorded for traceability and investigation. Log management solutions or spreadsheets can be utilized for recording action items in a chronological order.

5. Integrate vulnerability management into incident response

Detecting vulnerabilities in the early stage prevents them from escalating into havoc-causing incidents. Aligning vulnerability management with incident response ensures better preparedness by providing richer context and facilitating better root cause analysis.

6. Commit to sustained improvement

Safeguarding organization’s market perception, revenue and operational continuity demands sustained improvement. It is crucial for organizations to conduct VAPT (vulnerability and penetration testing) scans, review reports and initiate remediation to effectively navigate vulnerability cycles.

Employing dependency scanners for detecting external threats at the time of testing applications must be a regular exercise. These practices help organizations stay ever-vigilant and audit-ready.

Also read: Complete list of ISO 27001 certification requirements

How often do you need to perform ISO 27001 vulnerability scanning?

ISO 27001 does not explicitly specify the frequency, although it does emphasize the need for regular reviews. The frequency of vulnerability scans should be based on the risk tolerance of assets, complexity of IT infrastructure, compliance requirements and should accommodate any infrastructure or software changes.

Internal scans are initiated from within the organization’s network and assess internal threats. External vulnerability scans on the other hand are conducted outside the organization’s network perimeter to identify weaknesses that could be exploited by hackers.

Benefits of ISO 27001 vulnerability management

The National Vulnerability Database (NVD) published over 25000 vulnerability types in 2022 which is a 20% increase from 2021. As the threat landscape continues to mature, so should the countermeasures that organizations take to avoid them.

Vulnerability management is important to address evolving cybersecurity challenges and proactively protect systems and information. Here’s how it shields companies against advancing threats:

Contributes to security program maturation

Vulnerability management goes through a complicated process of scanning systems and networks, prioritizing risks, creating, and implementing mitigation plans and continuous monitoring. These recurrent patterns help the security program evolve and mature for efficient threat management.

Helps minimize financial repercussions

Investing in vulnerability management proves to be cost effective due to early threat detection and response, streamlined patch management, reduced containment efforts and efficient allocation of resources.

Facilitates compliance and regulatory adherence

Integrating vulnerability management in your workflows automatically addresses several compliance requirements that necessitate its implementation. Maintaining records of vulnerability assessments and remediation efforts serve as important evidence during compliance audits.

Strengthens monitoring and reporting functions

Vulnerability management enhances visibility into security gaps, facilitates centralized collection and analysis of vulnerability data, and provides deeper insights about posture appropriateness with comprehensive reporting.

Nurtures strong client relationship

Demonstrating vulnerability management can help you capitalize on strong security practices and instill trust in clients. It fosters transparent communication and displays proactiveness in addressing security concerns.

Vulnerability and Compliance Management with Sprinto

The process of coordinating, tracking and documenting vulnerabilities for ISO 27001 vulnerability management presents practical constraints. Sprinto comes to the rescue with the ability to manage all vulnerabilities and track them to closure.
It does all the heavy lifting by providing pre-built policy templates, comprehensive platform integrations, and more to go beyond addressing vulnerabilities and help with all aspects of compliance.

Click here to read about how Officebeacon became ISO 27001 audit ready in 2 weeks. 


Does ISO 27001 require vulnerability scanning?

While ISO 27001 does not specifically prescribe vulnerability scanning, it advocates a risk management framework that encompasses managing vulnerabilities. Therefore, in order to maintain an effective ISMS, vulnerability scans are recommended.

What is ISO 27001 management of technical vulnerabilities?

Annex A 8.8 ISO 27001:2022 talks about the management of technical vulnerabilities in three steps: Identification, Evaluation of risks, and initiating appropriate corrective measures.

What evidence should be produced to the auditor to showcase vulnerability management?

The auditor will check vulnerability scanning reports and proof of remediation documents during the audit. Additionally, any training records, change management documents etc. can also be attached.

Payal Wadhwa

Payal Wadhwa

Payal is your friendly neighborhood compliance whiz! She turns perplexing compliance lingo into actionable advice about keeping your digital business safe and savvy. When she isn’t saving virtual worlds, she’s penning down poetic musings or lighting up local open mics. Cyber savvy by day, poet by night!

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