How to create a Vulnerability Management Policy?

Payal Wadhwa

Payal Wadhwa

Apr 05, 2024

vulnerability management policy

According to a recent report, more than 25,000 vulnerabilities were reported in the last two years. Security teams have been tasked with patching every one of these vulnerabilities. But imagine doing so without structured guidance. How cumbersome would that be? This highlights the importance of having a comprehensive vulnerability management policy. It provides a framework to manage and patch vulnerabilities while taking into account the scope and how the organization operates.

Modern cybersecurity solutions focus on building resilience rather than just prevention. A vulnerability management policy is, therefore, a part of the larger cybersecurity policy and includes measures that protect the organization rather than just prevent vulnerabilities.

This blog serves as your guide to creating a vulnerability policy and includes a free template to help you launch a vulnerability management program effortlessly.

What is vulnerability management policy?

A vulnerability management policy is a set of guidelines that help identify vulnerabilities in the IT environment, evaluate associated risks, and carry out remediation activities in a timely manner. 

Vulnerability management policy broadly includes details on tracking, analyzing, and mitigating vulnerabilities while also highlighting the roles and responsibilities, documentation, and review procedures.

Download a sample vulnerability management policy to eliminate the need for creating it from scratch:

Why is vulnerability management policy important?

A vulnerability management policy is crucial to enhance visibility into known and unknown network vulnerabilities, meet regulatory requirements, and minimize attack surface area.

Here are 5 key benefits of having a vulnerability management policy:

Structured guidance

A vulnerability management policy provides a systematic approach to vulnerability scanning, testing, risk assessments, role management, communication channels, etc. It ensures clarity and transparency while establishing standardized practices throughout the organization.

Role clarity

The policy removes ambiguity in role definition and enhances accountability by clearly stating responsibilities related to vulnerability identification, evaluation, and remediation. It also establishes a review and reporting hierarchy for periodic assessments and remediation.

Compliance

Several compliance standards require organizations to have a well-documented vulnerability management policy to protect sensitive information. Frameworks like PCI DSS, HIPAA, ISO 27001, NIST, etc, mandate that vulnerabilities be identified and managed proactively and systematically.

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Risk reduction

A vulnerability management policy enables early detection, defines criteria for prioritization, and helps with timely remediation of vulnerabilities. These procedures help reduce exposure to cyber risks and improve organizational resilience.

Protection of reputation

Having a vulnerability management policy indicates a proactive stance to safeguarding customer data that can greatly enhance organizational reputation among customers and stakeholders. It also protects the brand image from negative publicity resulting from non-compliance.

What does the vulnerability management policy include?

The contents of the vulnerability management policy can differ based on organizational complexity, but broadly includes guidelines on identifying, prioritizing, and mitigating vulnerabilities. Here are the components of vulnerability management policy:

Purpose

The purpose section includes the policy’s objective which is to establish well-structured guidelines to implement a vulnerability management process. The policy outlines the procedures for identifying, prioritizing, mitigating, monitoring, and reporting vulnerabilities to ensure the security and integrity of the organization’s information assets.

Scope

The scope defines the systems, applications, devices, and departments covered under the policy. There must be a precise inventory of the systems, software, connections, etc. to ensure the accuracy of vulnerability assessments. The scope must be periodically verified and updated if required.

Responsibility (Vulnerability management authority)

This section offers clarity on roles and responsibilities for implementing the vulnerability management program. For example,

  • The ultimate Vulnerability Management Authority ie. the CISO or InfoSec Officer must plan and enforce the policy
  • The IT department must conduct regular vulnerability assessments and penetration tests
  • The Security teams must prioritize vulnerabilities based on severity and impact
  • The employees must report vulnerabilities to the IT department

Vulnerability assessment

The vulnerability assessment section outlines the methods and tools that must be used to identify vulnerabilities along with the frequency. These methods can include vulnerability scans, pen tests, manual reviews etc.

Here’s an example of what can be included in the section:

  • Vulnerability scans will be conducted quarterly for medium and low-risk systems and monthly for high-risk systems using automated vulnerability scanners
  • Penetration testing will be conducted annually by external security firm
  • There can be ad-hoc scans/tests in case of major infrastructure changes or an emergency
  • A company-approved endpoint protection software will be used to scan company-owned/ employee-owned devices for any potential vulnerabilities

This section can also include logging and monitoring for threat detection and guidelines related to documentation of identified vulnerabilities.

Risk assessment and prioritization

This section describes how the vulnerabilities will be evaluated and prioritized

For example,

  • The vulnerabilities will be evaluated based on their CVSS score, vulnerability exploitability, and impact on the organization
  • The vulnerabilities will be prioritized based on the above scores and risk assessments

Mitigation

This section will highlight the mitigation or remediation measures for fixing critical vulnerabilities. It can include guidelines on patch management, configuration management, and other measures.

Here’s an example:

Patch management implementation

  • All information assets under the policy scope must be scanned for missing patches regularly
  • The IT team must regularly manage patch applications and there must be a verification or testing of deployed patches within a reasonable period
  • Vulnerability patches must be prioritized based on severity and level of risk
  • There must be documentation of patches applied

Configuration management

  • Configuration baselines must be established and documented
  • Proper access controls must be implemented to minimize unauthorized configuration changes
  • In case of change in configurations, a proper change management process must be followed

Other measures can include backups, firewalls, intrusion detection systems etc.

Monitoring and reporting

This section describes the procedures for monitoring the effectiveness of the vulnerability management program and reporting procedures to key stakeholders

Enforcement

This section explains how compliance with the vulnerability management procedure will be ensured.

For example:

  • policy adherence must be ensured through regular assessments and audits
  • In case of violations, disciplinary actions must be initiated, such as verbal or written warnings and so on.

Policy review and updates

Lastly, this section specifies the policy review and update schedule. It can be done annually or as per the organization’s specific needs.

Other sections

Other sections can include any references, exceptions to the policy, definitions of terms, etc.

How to create a vulnerability management policy?

Creating a vulnerability management policy from scratch can be daunting as it requires a lot of research and understanding of the organization’s environment, regulatory requirements, and threat landscape. It is generally created by the cybersecurity team and approved by senior management.

Here are 5 steps to create a vulnerability management policy:

Define objectives

Start by defining the objectives of creating the policy. These can vary from ensuring compliance with regulations, minimizing the risk of security incidents, or building organizational resilience. The objectives will lay the foundation for the contents of the policy.

Gather requirements

To gather requirements, involve key stakeholders such as the IT department, compliance teams, security professionals, etc. The requirements include an inventory of information assets, preliminary risk assessments to understand the current profile, regulatory obligations, and some research on emerging threats.

Research best practices

Research vulnerability management best practices, such as asset classification, patch management, etc., to structure the policy. You can utilize guidance from resources such as NIST and ISO to include top-notch content in the policy.

Draft the policy and get approvals

Draft the policy and include the sections we shared above (purpose, scope, etc.) and get the draft reviewed by senior management. Incorporate the feedback gathered and prepare the final version of the policy to be distributed amongst the stakeholders.

Implement and monitor

Begin with policy implementation by establishing roles and responsibilities, getting the stakeholders onboarded with tools and conducting awareness training. Establish a continuous monitoring mechanism to review policy adherence and ensure continuous improvement.

Stay ahead of the curve with Sprinto

A vulnerability management policy is a crucial requirement for building a culture of cybersecurity and moving toward security maturity. It is also required for compliance and market trust. But in the world of automation, you do not need to create these policies from scratch.

Sprinto has pre-built security policy templates to save time and efforts and provide a scalable foundation for your compliance requirements. The compliance automation tool helps you centrally manage these policies and ensure employee acknowledgments.

Sprinto expands the scope of your compliance program by offering continuous control monitoring, training modules, integrated risk management, automated evidence collection, and more.

Read how Sprinto helped Dassana launch a compliance program and achieve SOC 2 audit readiness in just 2 weeks!

Talk to a compliance expert and kickstart your journey today.

FAQs

How often should vulnerability management policy be reviewed?

Vulnerability scans are usually conducted quarterly. So, based on the findings, the organizations can review policies and make any required updates. However, the frequency can vary as per the organization’s size, risk appetite and the threat landscape. The policy must also be reviewed whenever there are significant infrastructural changes.

How should organizations ensure compliance with vulnerability management policy?

Organizations can ensure compliance with vulnerability management policy by arranging for training sessions, setting up continuous monitoring mechanisms, ensuring periodic scans and conducting regular audits and assessments.

How can organizations measure the effectiveness of vulnerability management policy?

Organizations can measure the effectiveness of vulnerability management policy by establishing KPIs such as percentage of vulnerabilities patched, average time taken to remediate vulnerabilities, training completion rates etc.

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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