Microsoft Azure
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Explore the five phases of the vulnerability management lifecycle, from identifying vulnerabilities to their successful resolution and enhancing cybersecurity resilience. Read more to learn about each stage, and discover how Runecast can help you!

Security teams know that even one overlooked vulnerability can be exploited, leading to potential damage, such as data breaches, system downtimes or compliance violations. The vulnerability management lifecycle is a process that helps organizations to systematically identify, assess, prioritize and remediate vulnerabilities within the IT infrastructure. Read more!

Why does the vulnerability management lifecycle matter?

Vulnerability is a weakness or flaw that is present in a system network, code, security procedures, application, or process.

Exploiting such vulnerabilities can allow intruders to gain access and compromise the systems. When vulnerabilities are exploited, they can lead to unauthorized access, data breaches, service disruptions, compliance violations and other security incidents.

Understanding vulnerabilities is important to increase the overall organization’s security, and addressing these weaknesses mitigates risks, and improves the resilience of systems against cyber threats.

Vulnerability Management Lifecycle

The vulnerability management lifecycle is a process designed to identify, assess, prioritize, and remediate vulnerabilities within an organization’s IT infrastructure. 

A typical round of the life cycle has five stages that make sure that the vulnerabilities are identified and resolved, and the level of cybersecurity resilience is improved. Sometimes you can see lists with six or seven stages. These are usually separated areas from already listed topics (e.g. some resources can list Identification & Assessment as 2 separate steps). The number of stages is not crucial, but it is important that all components of the vulnerability management lifecycle are fulfilled, as that is the only way to effectively protect yourself from vulnerabilities and ist successful exploits. Let’s take a deeper look at each step.

1. Identification & Assessment

The initial discovery phase of vulnerability management aims to discover vulnerabilities within the infrastructure before they can be exploited within the environment. After defining the assets that should be checked, the scan to find vulnerabilities and potential exploits can be run.

Numerous vulnerability assessment tools, or vulnerability scanners, are available on the market, covering a variety of layers of the IT infrastructure and its components.

Examples of vulnerability assessment tools:

Web Application Scanners: Specifically designed for assessing vulnerabilities in web applications, these tools identify issues like SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and other security weaknesses in web-based software.

Database Scanners: These tools focus on database systems, evaluating configurations, access controls, and potential vulnerabilities within databases to ensure the security of stored data.

Host-Based Scanners: Operating at the individual host level, these tools assess vulnerabilities in the underlying operating system, applications, and services running on a specific computer or server.

Cloud-Based Vulnerability Assessment Tools: Tailored for cloud environments, these tools assess configurations, permissions, and potential vulnerabilities in cloud services and infrastructure.

Compliance and Risk Assessment Tools: Some tools are designed to assess an organization's compliance with industry standards and regulations, helping identify potential risks associated with non-compliance.

Such solutions help to understand risks and make a foundation for informed decision-making in the next stages of the vulnerability management process. The generated reports highlight the areas where the infrastructure is vulnerable to threats and show which systems might be at risk, and what kind of patching and remediation should be done in the next steps.

Selecting the right platform for discovery is a crucial step in the process. Runecast provides continuous support, ensuring that you see any vulnerabilities in your complex environment. The solution can be deployed in about 15 minutes and integrates with your VMware, OS, cloud, or container environments. Take a proactive step in identifying potential exploits, and ensure you bolster your organization’s cybersecurity resilience.

2. Prioritization

In this phase, the focus transitions from identification to strategic decision-making based on the list of vulnerabilities found during the discovery phase.

Vulnerability prioritization is the process of scoring identified vulnerabilities and prioritizing their remediation based on factors such as potential impact, likelihood of exploitation (i.e. whether they are already known to have been exploited), and business consequences if successfully targeted. This process takes into account additional contextual elements like asset information, severity levels, and threat intelligence. Prioritization of vulnerabilities revolves around understanding their broader implications for the organization’s security.

A vulnerability management solution should provide you with a way to prioritize the vulnerabilities, so you can quickly take action on the most critical ones. For example, Runecast provides you with a detailed report of vulnerabilities within your infrastructure, scoring them based on their severity, taking into account the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) and CISA’s Known Exploited Vulnerabilities (KEVs) catalog. 

3. Remediation & Mitigation

In the remediation phase, the emphasis shifts from identification and prioritization to actively resolving vulnerabilities. During the remediation process, vulnerabilities are systematically addressed, starting with the most critical ones identified in the prioritization phase.

There are various approaches to remediation, such as patches, fixes, or the removal of vulnerable assets from the infrastructure. The remediation process can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, especially in the case of patching, which may necessitate downtime. Therefore, in certain scenarios, organizations opt for mitigation strategy instead of full remediation.

Risk mitigation involves implementing measures to reduce the likelihood of exploitation. For example, strengthening authentication protocols or incorporating additional security controls are effective strategies. While mitigation does not eliminate the vulnerability entirely, it can significantly lower the risk of successful exploitation.

Runecast provides a remediation strategy for every identified vulnerability within your infrastructure. In some cases, the vulnerability can be fixed quickly, just by system updates, or reconfigurations. Regardless of whether your environment is VMware, AWS or Azure, Runecast consistently offers you the best native option. The solution also offers automated remediation for addressing the vulnerabilities, so you can take immediate action. Various remediation scripts are also frequently provided (e.g. for PowerCLI, PowerShell, AWS CLI, or Ansible) so that you can download the one which matches the software tools you use for automation. For more details, please see our User Guide.

4. Verification

The verification process ensures that remediation and mitigation strategies worked, and the vulnerabilities were resolved. Security teams scan and test the assets they addressed, verifying the successful resolution of vulnerabilities. This process validates the effectiveness of the applied remedies but also checks for any newly emerged vulnerabilities during remediation.

This phase validates past efforts and proactively fortifies the organization’s cybersecurity resilience to serve as the foundation for future vulnerability management lifecycles.

Use penetration testing tools and teams for the verification process. During a penetration test, a tool or a team of security experts tries to deliberately exploit fixed vulnerabilities to test your defenses. By the end of this stage, you can be assured that all known vulnerabilities in all critical assets of your business are addressed and your overall cybersecurity is improved – until the start of your next vulnerability management lifecycle.

5. Reporting & Improvement

In the last stage of the vulnerability lifecycle process, outcomes are consolidated, and the security team documents the discovered vulnerabilities and their resolutions. This document is then shared with key stakeholders, including executives, asset owners, and compliance departments. 

Last but not least, a section dedicated to “lessons learned” is included. It delves into the insights gained during the cycle, analyzing successes and areas for improvement. The purpose is not only to inform stakeholders but to improve the next vulnerability management cycle.

Runecast provides built-in customizable reporting options, which are hugely beneficial to indicate historical gains to internal shareholders, and which some customers (e.g. in the Banking sector) have used to verify security and regulatory compliance posture directly to customers.


In an era of sophisticated and complex IT infrastructures, safeguarding proactively against vulnerabilities becomes crucial. The vulnerability management lifecycle offers a structured approach to address potential threats.

The process consists of 5 stages, ensuring the systematic identification, assessment, prioritization, and resolution of vulnerabilities. It also emphasizes the importance of reporting to key stakeholders and continual improvement for future life cycles.

Understanding vulnerabilities is critical, given their potential to lead to severe consequences, such as data breaches or system downtime. Runecast provides continuous support and proactive remediation, ensuring the health of your organization’s IT infrastructure and preventing the oversight of critical vulnerabilities.

“Runecast has kept pace identifying additional vulnerabilities.In addition to multiple outdated driver and misconfiguration issues, Runecast showed VCS many improvements that could be made to strengthen security for the network,” says David Henderson, Director of Computer Services at Victor Central Schools.

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