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    Components of a Vulnerability Management Program

    Vulnerability Management Program

    Healthcare continues to be one of the most regulated industries across the globe. Unfortunately, while the aim of many of these regulations is to protect patient data, healthcare remains a top target for stealing sensitive data and exploiting software.

    If you’re operating a healthcare organization, your focus should be on meeting patient needs, not resolving an IT problem or mitigating damage due to a data breach. For this reason, it is crucial for healthcare businesses to employ a vulnerability management program to protect data from hackers and thieves.

    Some healthcare organizations hire IT support to handle the job, but this is only effective as a short-term solution. To protect your healthcare business in the long term, it’s recommended to utilize information technology service management, or ITSM, so you can ensure your technology and systems are running smoothly.

    What Is a Vulnerability Management Program?

    Vulnerability management programs are frameworks designed to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities in IT infrastructures or applications. When a program is created, a diverse team from departments like security, AppSec, IT, and DevOps all come together to manage an organization’s IT systems and protect the organization from cyberattacks. The system created to do so is known as a vulnerability management program.

    These systems reduce the risks of breaches and defend against cybercriminals. Some companies believe vulnerability management programs simply scan IT systems and spot anything abnormal, but this isn’t the case. These programs scan everywhere a vulnerability could lie, including ports, apps, websites, and more. By installing a proper vulnerability management program, healthcare providers can ensure that all sensitive data is protected from outside intruders.

    Examples of Security Vulnerabilities

    Security Vulnerabilities

    There are several potential sources of vulnerabilities, including the following:

    • Outdated versions of operating systems or software
    • Open ports and services
    • Misconfigurations
    • Stolen or weak user credentials
    • Poor script paths
    • Broken algorithms
    • Weak and unchanged passwords,
    • And more
    In addition to problems within the IT framework, there are other vulnerabilities cybercriminals can use to their advantage. For example, missing or poorly placed security cameras, unlocked doors, and outdated entry credentials can serve as a physical gateway for cybercriminals to perform their acts. That’s why we recommend configuring practical solutions to these problems, alongside establishing a vulnerability management program to defend your organization.

    The Four Primary Steps of Vulnerability Management

    When implementing a vulnerability management program, there are four main steps that must be followed to ensure your program is as functional as possible. Skipping or failing to fully complete a step can allow cybercriminals to take advantage, which can happen far quicker than you might think. To ensure your program is as functional and efficient as possible, follow these steps:

    Know Your Vulnerabilities

    By understanding your potential sources of vulnerabilities, including firewalls, printers, networking devices, and more, you’ll be able to proceed with establishing a program more efficiently. This is what’s known as “asset inventory,” and it helps your IT team recognize exactly which technologies you have that may be at risk. Assets not included in the inventory are essentially invisible to your IT team, which poses a vulnerability threat down the line.

    Scan Your Systems

    Once you’ve determined where your vulnerabilities may lie, you can then use a vulnerability scanning program to scan each potential source. This will determine where vulnerabilities in your systems reside. Once the weak spots of your framework are identified, you can apply patches to resolve the issues.

    Scan Your Systems

    Once you’ve determined where your vulnerabilities may lie, you can then use a vulnerability scanning program to scan each potential source. This will determine where vulnerabilities in your systems reside. Once the weak spots of your framework are identified, you can apply patches to resolve the issues.

    While a vulnerability management program can scan your sources continuously, there may be times when it is wise to perform your own scan. Keep in mind: the best outcomes come from regularly scanning the system. However, if there’s been a software update, or if you’ve had a cyberattack recently and want to take precautions, you may want to schedule a scan outside of the routine.

    Report the Vulnerabilities

    While this step may sound simple, the process of reporting vulnerabilities is more complex than it seems. This step can also become more challenging if tens, hundreds, or even thousands of vulnerabilities are discovered via the scan. Once your program determines the vulnerabilities in your IT system, the report must be sent to and evaluated by the entire vulnerability management program team. They will then need to determine which vulnerabilities are a priority, which are more moderate needs, and which may need to await a proper patch. Once this is discussed, the team can proceed with the final step.

    Respond to the Vulnerabilities

    Responding to the identified vulnerabilities typically means far more than simply fixing or patching the issue and moving on. In fact, many times, simply patching a problem isn't an option, and the team may need to identify or craft a temporary solution. In other cases, the team may recommend re-testing the scanning program or re-scanning for vulnerabilities. In any case, once the vulnerabilities are established, the team's goal is to identify a solution to remediate or eliminate the vulnerabilities.

    Why a Strong Vulnerability Management Program Is Essential

    If a step of the management program is ignored or not completed, the resulting vulnerability can pose serious consequences to organizations in the healthcare field.

    For example, if a cybercriminal performs a ransomware attack on a healthcare organization, they may continue this attack until their demands are met. Regardless of the severity or length of the attack, ransomware prevents healthcare organizations from performing the tasks and services necessary for patient success. Cybercriminals can also put patients' personal identifying and financial information at risk, which can be emotionally, physically, and financially dangerous for patients.

    Not only is a strong vulnerability management program important for protecting patients but mitigating the effects of cyber attacks can cost healthcare organizations millions of dollars. In addition, cyberattacks can severely harm your business's reputation, further damaging your bottom line. This is money that should be spent providing more services to patients, strengthening existing programs and frameworks, improving equipment, and more. To protect your budget, staff, and patients, your organization needs a vulnerability management program.

    Improving Vulnerability Management Programs

    Improve Vulnerability Management Programs

    While following the four basic steps can keep your data secure, there are other components your business can integrate into your program to improve security and further reduce the risk of breaches.

    Risk Management

    After your team has discovered all vulnerabilities, you can begin addressing and patching them. Risk management is a critical strategy to use at this point. This strategy will help you quickly address vulnerabilities so they won't pose a problem later. Organizations that use risk management strategies must log all vulnerabilities and handle any current risks, especially while a software patch is in the works.

    Penetration Testing

    Penetration testing is considered a tabletop exercise, and this service can simulate a cyberattack to expose vulnerabilities or test any patches that have been applied. Ethical hacking experts are brought in with the goal of penetrating your organization's systems to force a report of the situation's findings. It can also demonstrate how your security systems were exploited, allowing your IT team to address the issue without hassle.

    Installing a Tracking System

    By installing a tracking system, you can continuously perform scans and record all actions. This will allow your business to keep track of any changes or trends that arise, as well as prevent any persistent errors from occurring down the line. This also makes reporting problems to the IT team simpler. If reporting must be done during a HIPAA audit or regulatory assessment, using a tracking system can make these tasks simpler, as well.

    The Challenges of Vulnerability Management Programs

    While vulnerability management programs can ensure your healthcare business is safe and secure, there are certain challenges that can pose a problem if you’re unprepared for them.

    Wide Range of Medical Equipment

    While a wide range of medical equipment can be essential in helping patients address their needs, it also means that the vulnerability management program you establish must account for each of them. It can be challenging to manage a variety of healthcare technology, which enables cybercriminals to perform their actions.

    Internet of Things

    The Internet of Things (IoT) allows organizations to connect their devices to the internet for several purposes, including gathering data and remote care. However, this can also be the source of data breaches and Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks. Healthcare providers can be the victims of security breaches due to vulnerabilities in various medical equipment, infrastructure systems, and more.

    Security Regulations

    It's also important for organizations that implement a vulnerability management program to ensure they’re following security and privacy regulations. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requires healthcare organizations to follow certain guidelines to ensure patients’ data is protected legally. While vulnerability management can help protect this data, the system itself must adhere to regulations.

    Establishing a Program: In-House vs. Out-of-House

    Healthcare organizations may choose to create their vulnerability management programs within the organization, but most choose to outsource the operation to a third party. Both come with advantages, and both options should be considered by healthcare organizations looking to protect their business.

    In-House Program

    If your organization has the required staffing to take on establishing a vulnerability management program, handling it in-house is possible. All aspects of the program must be addressed, including reporting, patching, and more. Building the framework requires a great deal of time and effort to construct efficiently, and you'll have to carefully consider your budget and staff when deciding to build the program in-house.


    Outsourcing your program to a third party may be your best option if you don’t have the staff or tools to handle it on your own. However, there are additional reasons you may want to consider this as an option:

    • Efficiency – If you create your program internally, you’ll need to have the staff on hand to perform the required tasks periodically, which can take away from performing other IT-related tasks. By outsourcing the program, you’re able to have another party handle addressing and patching vulnerabilities.
    • Training – If you were to operate your program internally, your staff might not have the required training to address vulnerability management specifically. An outside provider will have this necessary training, as well as years of experience handling these matters.
    • Budget – If budget is a concern for your organization, outsourcing the vulnerability management program to another party can be less costly compared to staffing, overhead, and productivity losses. The outsourced party will have the staff and tools necessary to address your concerns at a fixed rate.

    Vulnerability Management with Healthcare ITSM

    Vulnerability Management Program

    The healthcare field is no stranger to addressing security threats, and as criminals and hackers continue to come up with new ways to breach evolving security procedures, vulnerability management remains a key protection for your business. Healthcare workers should be working closely with patients to ensure their needs are met, not spending their time resolving a DDoS attack that’s preventing them from accessing required data. With a vulnerability management program, you can ensure sensitive data is protected from cybercriminals, allowing you to focus on your business.

    At Healthcare ITSM, we focus on what our customers need, and we provide IT services above and beyond support to healthcare businesses of all sizes. This includes helping businesses create vulnerability management programs that reduce the risk of breaches while aligning closely with each company's business model.

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