Free Vulnerability Management Policy Template (+ Examples)

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Free Vulnerability Management Policy Template (+ Examples)

A vulnerability management policy sets the ground rules for the process, minimum standards, and reporting requirements for vulnerability management.
An effective vulnerability management policy can help with the cyclical process of discovering and managing vulnerabilities found within IT hardware, software, and systems. A documented policy enables IT teams to create a trackable and repeatable process that meets the expectations of executives and conforms to compliance requirements.
This article helps organizations of all sizes to start the policy creation process with a fundamental overview and a downloadable template.
As both an example and a starting point, eSecurity Planet has developed a free vulnerability management policy template for organizations to download, modify to meet their needs, and use. Notes of explanation or how to use the template are enclosed [between brackets] and these sections should be removed from final drafts.
The sample patching policy contains many sections, but not all sections will be required for all organizations and others might require more details. See Common Vulnerability Management Policy Sections below for more details.
All security policies share the same four key steps to create a policy, and they are explored in detail in IT Security Policies: Importance, Best Practices, & Top Benefits. For a functional patch management policy, we summarized these steps as:
Don’t know where to start? Write down the current practice. Most IT teams have at least an informal process for obtaining and applying updates and patches, even if they are not written down or monitored.
While updates and patching remain a subset of vulnerability management, it at least provides a starting point for a more comprehensive policy. If the organization already has processes for double-checking configurations for networking equipment or open ports for server firewalls, those can also be added and broadened into a more comprehensive policy that encompasses more IT systems.
Although the basics of all IT security policy creation remains the same, vulnerability management is a frequently regulated requirement and organizations will need to apply extra caution in verifying compliance requirements. Additionally, the organization may be forced or choose to comply with compliance frameworks (NIST, PCI DSS, etc.) and industry standards.  The policy development team needs to check these external regulations and revise any rule that does not meet the compliance requirements.
Some compliance standards will be broad and vague, others will be detailed or have specific requirements. For example, for the CIS Critical Security Controls, the requirements are broad:
The CIS requirement specifies a need for the existence of a vulnerability management process, but does not specify the content or requirements for what might need to be included in the vulnerability management process or risk-based remediation strategy.
The credit card industry PCI DSS requirements will be more specific. For example, a restaurant chain may already have a patching process and policy that covers their computers. However, PCI DSS may require vulnerability scanning for a network, evaluation of point of sale (POS) terminals, and periodic penetration testing.
Practical limitations also apply. In the restaurant chain example above, perhaps the patch management tool managing the current patch management policy cannot scan for network vulnerabilities or for updates on the POS terminals. The current patching tool will need to be upgraded or complemented by a vulnerability management tool, a vulnerability management service, or a penetration testing service that can meet the PCI DSS regulatory requirements.
In the most effective vulnerability management policies, there are required, recommended, and bonus (aka nice-to-have) sections.
These core sections should be part of every policy related to Vulnerability Management:
These sections help to flesh out the vulnerability management policy with additional rules to protect the organization and to help prepare the IT department:
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Bonus / Nice-to-Have Sections: These sections do not change the core elements of the vulnerability management policy, but can make the policy more usable or comprehensive.
All security policies share the same five best practices to create a policy, and they are explored in detail in IT Security Policies: Importance, Best Practices, & Top Benefits. For a functional patch management policy, we summarize these steps as:
The eSecurity Planet template seeks to be more comprehensive than some organizations may need, so every organization should review the template and add or remove content to fit their needs.
Beyond the standard best practices, vulnerability management benefits from additional considerations. For example, to maintain practical policies, exhibits or additional reports can be used to provide details that may need to be changed more frequently than the policy itself. For example, in the sample template, the IT team is required to maintain a list of the types of vulnerability scanners used to detect potential vulnerabilities.
Although every organization should begin drafting policies based upon existing practices and capabilities, this can lead to a trap of preserving incomplete processes into written policies. The organization should carefully examine their environment and ensure the policy reflects their true needs.
For instance, an IT team of a hospital may use a commercial tool to conduct vulnerability scanning of their IT environment, but the tool may only scan PCs, network devices, and servers, which leaves an enormous range of healthtech devices unscanned for vulnerabilities. Their policy requirements should not reflect the limited devices currently scanned, but the full range of devices that need to be included in the vulnerability management process.
Organizations of all sizes tend to avoid the hassle of documentation because the task seems overwhelming, tedious, and constraining. However, any effective security policy delivers six key benefits:
No policy will be perfect, but organizations should start developing a vulnerability management policy as soon as possible so they can begin to reap the benefits, such as IT hardening and simplified compliance. The adoption of any policy will be an iterative process, so get a good version 1.0 in place and be prepared to revise it to meet real-world conditions.
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