Patch Management and Vulnerability Remediation Playbook

December 17, 20235 min read

Playbook Objectives

  • To ensure that the IT staff of ZenithTech, Inc. is adequately prepared to handle the complexities of patch management and the remediation of vulnerabilities identified on the company’s network.
  • To assess and improve the current patch management policies and procedures for effectiveness and to reinforce the cybersecurity posture of ZenithTech effectively.
  • To simulate a realistic threat scenario in which the company’s systems are exploited due to unresolved vulnerabilities, necessitating an orchestrated response for containment and mitigation.
  • To provide a hands-on experience where IT personnel can practice identifying, prioritizing, and applying critical patches as well as mitigating the risks associated with system vulnerabilities.

Difficulty Level

  • Intermediate to Advanced


  • ZenithTech, Inc. is a high-profile fintech company that has recently experienced rapid growth, resulting in the expansion of its IT infrastructure to support new services and an increasing number of clients.
  • The company’s CISO, Susan Winters, recognizing the criticality of safeguarding client data and maintaining service availability, has authorized a proactive cyber range exercise focusing on patch management and vulnerability remediation to test and improve ZenithTech’s defense mechanisms.
  • The IT infrastructure at ZenithTech includes a combination of on-premise servers running various operating systems, cloud-based services, employee workstations, and a sprawling network of IoT devices. Remote staff access company resources through a VPN, which has been flagged by the security team as a potential vector for exploitation due to inconsistent patch levels.
  • A recent audit by an external consultancy revealed several critical vulnerabilities across multiple systems that had not been patched in a timely manner, raising concerns about the potential for a serious security breach.
  • As part of a concerted effort to address these concerns, ZenithTech has decided to execute a cyber range exercise that simulates a targeted attack leveraging both known and zero-day vulnerabilities unpatched in the network’s systems.


  • Patch Management and Vulnerability Remediation

Exercise Attack Steps

  • Initial Reconnaissance: Cyber range exercise begins with the simulation of attackers conducting reconnaissance, looking for unpatched systems by exploiting public information and scanning for vulnerabilities.
  • Exploitation of Identified Vulnerability: Attackers find an unpatched vulnerability within the secure web server servicing the company’s main client portal and exploit it to gain unauthorized access.
  • Establishing Foothold: The attackers establish a foothold on the compromised web server and escalate their privileges to admin level.
  • Lateral Movement: Utilizing the high-level access gained, attackers move laterally within the network, aiming to compromise the internal database server containing sensitive client information.
  • Discovery of Additional Vulnerabilities: Attackers discover additional vulnerabilities on IoT devices and other critical systems within ZenithTech’s network without automated patching procedures.
  • Deployment of Payload: To demonstrate the potential damage, a simulated payload resulting in a denial-of-service (DoS) attack is deployed, affecting the online client portal.
  • Detection and Analysis: ZenithTech’s security team, part of the exercise, detects the unusual traffic, and system behavior, instigating an immediate response to analyze the breach.
  • Patch Management and Response: The IT team is tasked with identifying the vulnerable systems and using their patch management tools to quickly deploy updates and security patches.
  • Vulnerability Remediation: The team executes a series of actions to remediate the vulnerabilities found across the network, which includes the configuration of firewalls, segmentation of compromised networks, and system hardening.
  • Incident Response: Simultaneously, the cyber range exercise includes an incident response simulation requiring the team to follow the established incident response playbook to mitigate and recover from the attack.
  • Post-Exercise Analysis: After the exercise, conduct a thorough review of the team’s actions, time to response, and effectiveness of remediation efforts to identify areas for improvement and refine the incident response plan accordingly.
The outcome of this cyber range exercise is to provide ZenithTech with valuable insights into their existing patch management and vulnerability remediation processes and reveal any gaps or inefficiencies that need improvement. The simulated attack scenario provides practical experience in a controlled setting, allowing IT personnel to develop and validate their strategies for addressing real-world cybersecurity threats efficiently and effectively.