Vulnerability management for customer-controlled environments

February 29, 2024
min read
Team ngrok

Vulnerability management, a critical concept in the domain of software development and cloud computing, takes on additional complexities when SaaS applications need to access data in customer-controlled environments.

This guide aims to demystify vulnerability management—the ongoing process security teams use to discover and resolve software and hardware vulnerabilities in the systems they manage. 

It explores the fundamentals of vulnerability management and demonstrates how to adapt traditional approaches for SaaS vulnerability management providers who must tunnel into databases running in their client’s networks—a scenario increasingly common in the usage of tools like ngrok.

What is vulnerability management?

At its heart, vulnerability management is the systematic process of identifying, assessing, remediating, and monitoring security vulnerabilities in systems and the software that runs on them. Key steps include:

  1. Identification: Discover vulnerabilities in systems and applications.
  2. Assessment: Assess the risks associated with these vulnerabilities.
  3. Remediation: Address the vulnerabilities, often through patches or configuration changes.
  4. Monitoring: Continuously observe the environment to detect and mitigate new vulnerabilities.

Vulnerability management in cloud applications

Due to the fluidity and distributed nature of cloud resources, vulnerability management takes on a greater significance in the cloud. The challenge intensifies when SaaS vulnerability management applications need to access their customers’ environments in order to scan for vulnerabilities. In this case, SaaS applications need secure, reliable access to their customers’ databases, often requiring a tunnel into their customers’ networks for operations and data access. 

Bring Your Own Cloud (BYOC) in context

Bring Your Own Cloud (BYOC) architecture allows SaaS applications to integrate with resources (like databases) hosted within their customers’ cloud environments rather than forcing customers to work within the SaaS vendor’s environment. 

These customers, for reasons such as enhanced security, regulatory compliance, or data sovereignty, choose to host critical data within their controlled environments rather than relying on the infrastructure provided by the SaaS vendor.

In this case, SaaS vendors deploy the data plane component of their software in the customer’s environment while maintaining the control plane component in their own cloud environment. 

This allows SaaS vulnerability applications to scan applications and data directly in the customer’s environment. 

Challenges in vulnerability management with BYOC

While BYOC provides a solution for SaaS vulnerability management vendors who need to access data in customer environments, it comes with its unique challenges. 

An effective BYOC approach depends on a secure tunneling solution. However, BYOC presents significant network challenges that can take weeks or months to untangle as you navigate cross-organizational approval processes involving multiple stakeholders. Once approved, you’ll need to coordinate resource allocation between your IT team and your customers. Since each customer comes with a unique environment, you’ll need to maintain separate configurations for each customer.  

Strategies for effective vulnerability management using BYOC  

Despite the challenges mentioned above, SaaS vulnerability management vendors can implement a BYOC architecture to establish secure tunnels into customer networks to scan their applications and databases for vulnerabilities. A solution like ngrok streamlines the process by managing network resources such as load balancers, VPNs, and dedicated IP addresses that connect your cloud environment to your customer’s environments in our global network. This simplifies the approval process and brings BYOC to your customers in a frictionless manner without requiring any configuration changes in your customer’s network. 

This approach guarantees the security of data during transit and maintains the integrity of the customer's environment. It allows customers to utilize SaaS-based vulnerability management solutions to mitigate potential security risks while maintaining control of their networks. 

Learn more about secure ingress to external networks

For SaaS vendors, providing real-time vulnerability management involves connecting securely to their customers' networks to scan, discover, and continuously monitor assets housed in customer-controlled environments. This setup makes implementing robust security measures to safeguard sensitive information paramount. ngrok unifies the process to deliver a secure solution with a faster time-to-value than if you provisioned the resources in-house.

Additionally, compliance with organizational policies and regulations, as necessitated by the BYOC approach, becomes a shared responsibility, and ngrok provides the audit logging necessary to meet such requirements. The collaborative efforts of SaaS vendors and their customers in maintaining and securing these tunnels and databases are crucial to the integrity and success of modern cloud applications. This symbiotic relationship underpins the effectiveness of vulnerability management strategies in today’s interconnected digital ecosystem. 

You can sign up for ngrok today and get started with bringing BYOC to your customers’ environments. Explore our pricing here, and refer to our documentation for insights into pricing. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or encounter any issues. Connect with us on Twitter, the ngrok community on Slack, or contact us at

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