Their findings, detailed in the report written by researcher Derek Brink broke effective vulnerability management into four categories:
Assess: understanding of IT assets from desktop to network services; understand and monitor the threat environment; scan regularly for patches and vulnerabilities.
Prioritize: maintain a constant inventory of all IT assets, along with a database of known fixes; rank the necessity of fixes based on both the level of risk and the value to the business of the assets at risk.
Remediate: test fixes, patches and repairs before installation; automate remediations wherever possible; provide vulnerability management training for employees.
Repeat: review the success of the remediation, and create a report detailing its nature for both auditing and compliance reasons; continue to monitor for vulnerabilities, applying the first three VM qualities to the ongoing process.
Sensible advice that seems likely to spark at least a little controversy with its willingness to rank the importance of a vulnerability relative to the business value of the asset the vulnerability places at risk.
The ROI payoff, according to the report, comes from consistent and significant decreases in time to identify vulnerabilities and deploy patches, as well as reduction in reconfiguration time while waiting for a patch to be released.
Most significant of all was the report's finding that VM best-in-class companies achieved higher than 23 percent reductions in both penetration incidents and data loss incidents.
This is a report worth reading and thinking about, particularly as small and midsize businesses face economic issues and challenges that will affect security budgets -- and VM management.
The complete Aberdeen Group report, Vulnerability Management: Assess, Prioritize, Remediate, Repeat is available for download here. (NOTE: a fairly lengthy registration is required, but there's otherwise no charge for the report; free access expires Sept. 26.)
And here's a bMighty look at eight often overlooked vulnerabilities.