Policy 928 - Vulnerability and Patch Management Policy

Section: Information Technology
Policy Number: 928
Responsible Office: Information Technology
Effective Date: 5/1/19
Revised: 5/1/19; 6/11/20

Policy Statement

This policy addresses how St. John’s University (St. John’s) assesses and manages technical vulnerabilities within the Information Technology (IT) environment, which includes cloud services. Adherence to this policy increases the security posture of St. John’s and mitigates threats posed by vulnerabilities within St. John’s information systems.

Scope and Applicability

This policy is applicable to the St. John’s Information Technology (IT) department, but its scope covers the entire University Community. Adherence to this policy helps safeguard the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of St. John’s information assets, and protects the interest of St. John’s, its customers, personnel, and business partners.


Vulnerability and patch management is a security practice designed to proactively prevent the exploitation of IT vulnerabilities that exist within organizations and their systems. The expected result is to reduce the time and money spent dealing with vulnerabilities and exploitation of those vulnerabilities. Proactively and continuously managing vulnerabilities of systems reduces or eliminates the potential for exploitation and involve considerably less time and effort than responding after exploitation has occurred.

Assigning Risk Ratings

A process is established to review new security vulnerabilities and assign a risk rating in accordance with the 918 - IT Risk Assessment and Management Policy and standards. A simple scoring mechanism is implemented to place the vulnerabilities into three categories of “Critical,” “High,” or “Medium.” The risk rating depends on:

  • Industry best practices on classifying vulnerability risk ratings
  • Potential impact on St. John’s
  • Classification by the vendor
  • Systems affected and data it may hold

Patches and Updates

Procedures are in place to obtain copies of the software updates electronically when they are issued by the vendor. Updates are applied to systems based on the criticality of the update and St. John’s standard and procedures in place. 

Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing

Proactive measures to test the strength of the St. John’s security controls are in place and are as follows:

  • Vulnerability scanning of applications, systems, devices, and cloud environment
  • Network Security testing and scanning
  • Penetration Testing
  • Database Assessment

 Test results are recorded, risk assessed, ranked (usually as critical, high, or medium) and sent through the treatment process to remediate any vulnerabilities found. 

Internal and external targets for testing include but are not limited to:

  • Internal systems, applications, networks, and devices
  • Databases
  • Cardholder Data Environment (CDE) 
  • DMZ
  • Cloud environments

Internal and external vulnerability scans are performed at least weekly and after any significant change to the network. If required to fulfill St. John’s PCI DSS compliance requirements, external scans are performed via an Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV) designated by the PCI Security Standards Council (SSC). 


The following are the definitions relevant to the policy:

  • Computing Resources: All St. John’s information processing resources including all St. John’s owned, licensed, or managed computing services, hardware, software, and use of St. John’s network via physical or wireless connection regardless of the ownership of the computer or device connected to the network.
  • Institutional Data: All data owned or licensed by St. John’s.
  • University Community: Includes faculty, administrators, staff, student workers, graduate/technical assistants, alumni, interns, guests or agents of the administration, external individuals and organizations accessing St. John’s network services, and other authorized users.
  • PCI Security Standards Council (SSC): The governing organization and open forum responsible for the development, management, training/education, and PCI Security Standards awareness.
  • Cardholder Data Environment (CDE): A computer system or networked group of IT systems that processes, stores and/or transmits cardholder data or sensitive authentication data.
  • Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV): An organization with a set of security services and tools to conduct external vulnerability scanning services to validate adherence with the external scanning requirements of PCI DSS.
  • Demilitarized Zone (DMZ): DMZ is primarily implemented to secure an internal network from interaction with and exploitation and access by external nodes and networks. DMZ can be a logical sub-network, or a physical network acting as a secure bridge between an internal and external network.


St. John’s reserves the right to audit networks and systems on a periodic basis to ensure compliance with this policy. Instances of non-compliance must be presented to, reviewed, and approved by the CIO, the Director of Information Security, or the equivalent officer(s).

All breaches of information security, actual or suspected, must be reported to, and investigated by the CIO and the Director of Information Security. 

Those who violate security policies, standards, or security procedures are subject to disciplinary action up to and including loss of computer access and appropriate disciplinary actions as determined by St. John’s.

Related Policies, Standards or Regulations