Vulnerability Remediation vs. Mitigation: What’s the Difference?

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Vulnerability Remediation vs. Mitigation: What’s the Difference?

Vulnerability management programs look different depending on the available resources and specific risks your organization faces. While both identifying and evaluating possible threats are important steps, the most time-consuming step is actually treating the vulnerability.

Here’s where remediation and mitigation come into play. Both are different approaches to dealing with a vulnerability, and each has its own merits depending on the specific vulnerability you are dealing with.

Let’s dive into better understanding the difference between vulnerability mitigation vs. remediation.

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Remediation vs. mitigation: What are the differences?

Once a vulnerability has been discovered, the ideal solution is to remediate it—to fix or patch the vulnerability before it can become a security threat. Usually, it’s the organization’s security team, system owners, and system administrators who come together to determine which actions are appropriate.

Remediation can be as simple as applying a readily available software patch or as complex as replacing a fleet of physical servers across an organization’s network. When remediation activities are completed, it’s best to always run another vulnerability scan to confirm that the vulnerability has been fully resolved.

However, sometimes remediation isn’t possible, for several reasons. First, not all vulnerabilities need to be fixed. For example, if the vulnerability is identified in Adobe Flash Player but the use of Flash Player is already disabled in all web browsers and applications company-wide, there is no need for action. Or, sometimes you might be prevented from taking remediation action by a technology challenge, where a patch isn’t yet available for the vulnerability in question.

Other times, you may experience pushback from your own organization. This often happens when a vulnerability is on some type of customer-facing system and your company wants to avoid the downtime required to patch a vulnerability.

In those cases, the concept of mitigation comes into play. That is a process that essentially reduces the likelihood of a vulnerability being exploited. For example, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) mitigation can route suspicious traffic to a centralized location where it is filtered.

Usually, mitigation isn’t the final step in dealing with a vulnerability. It’s more of a way to buy time for the organization to either wait for the technology to be released or find a more appropriate time to schedule downtime in the system. Ultimately, fixing a network security issue is better than blocking the port that could expose it.

How to facilitate remediation vs. mitigation

Remediation and mitigation are two important tools that provide continuous pulse-checking of your business. But more often than not, eliminating vulnerabilities is not a one-and-done approach.

It can requires multi-team efforts, and time is often of the essence in these cases. Automation can be a big help in effective vulnerability management, both when it comes to remediation and mitigation.

For remediation, you’ll want to adopt a vulnerability management solution, like Rapid7’s InsightVM,  that eliminates the need for manual reporting, complex spreadsheets, and confusing back-and-forth email tags. Instead of dealing with those time-consuming activities, you’ll want a solution that can help you automate remediation steps like aggregating key information, retrieving fixes for identified vulnerabilities, and ultimately applying the patches (when appropriate).

For mitigation, invest in a vulnerability management solution that enables security teams to automatically implement either temporary or permanent compensating controls to reduce the risk of a vulnerability being exploited.

How InsightVM can help

If you are looking to improve the efficiency of your remediation process, Rapid7’s vulnerability risk management solution, InsightVM, can help., Recognized in the 2019 Forrester VRM Wave as a leader in vulnerability risk management, InsightVM can help you better understand the security risks in your environment and bring traditionally siloed teams together to reduce risk. With InsightVM’s IT-Integrated Remediation Projects, you can take a solution-based approach to remediation and identify individual steps that can reduce the most risk. Remediation Projects also integrate with ticketing systems like ServiceNow or Jira, helping you meet the Remediation team where they’re used to working.

With Automation-Assisted Patching in InsightVM, you can automate the patching process by integrating with third party patch management tools like BigFix and Microsoft SCCM. This saves you time from traditionally tedious and repetitive tasks like applying patches to known vulnerabilities. You can also automate the mitigation process with Automated Containment in InsightVM. InsightVM integrates with your Network Access Control (NAC) systems, Firewalls, and Endpoint Detection and Response tools (EDR) like Palo Alto PAN-OS, Cisco FirePower, and Carbon Black Response to automate the process of restricting network access to vulnerable assets.

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