What is Vulnerability Scanning?
Vulnerability scanning involves using tools or software to scan for cyber threats and vulnerabilities across various networks, programs and devices. It’s a vital process, as it provides insight into which areas of an enterprise are most at risk of a cyber attack, allowing businesses to prioritize remediation efforts.
It’s important to make the distinction that vulnerability scanning is not the same thing as vulnerability management, but one important part of that management process.
In the modern world, where everything is connected to the internet in some capacity, there are myriad possibilities for vulnerabilities to exist. Through scanning, companies can uncover the risk of their systems and potential exposure of sensitive data concerning their employees, consumers and infrastructure.
As the cyber threat situation evolves, as does the sophistication of vulnerability scanning. Today’s vulnerability scanners can detect exploits, security holes and system misconfigurations that could inadvertently put businesses at risk. Consider that, in 2019, cyber crime took a toll of $2 trillion on U.S. companies, and cyber criminal activity remains on the rise. If a survey by Juniper Research is accurate, up to 33 billion documents will be compromised through cyber attacks by 2023.
If these vulnerabilities can be managed before they’re exploited, it can significantly alter the rate at which cyber attacks are successful. Let’s take a look at how vulnerability scanning is used and how a comprehensive scanning program can secure your business.
Vulnerability Scanning Process
Through vulnerability scanning, an IT security team can create key inventories of an enterprise system’s connected servers, firewalls, IOT devices, desktops and laptops. A comprehensive inventory includes a detailed list of the operating system each device runs on, along with user accounts and other attributes.
Once an inventory is created, the scanner searches for vulnerabilities and compiles a list of everything it’s scanned and potential threats therein.
There are four key processes involved in a comprehensive vulnerability scan, which include the following:
- Vulnerability Identification
- Vulnerability Analysis
- Risk Assessment
Vulnerability Scanning Tips
There are no shortage of vulnerability scanners on the market and many ways in which to perform a vulnerability scan. Popular methods include an external vulnerability scan, internal vulnerability scan, and unauthenticated and authenticated vulnerability scans.
An external vulnerability scan takes place outside of the network and is designed to scan perimeter defenses. The main purpose of an external scan is to fix vulnerabilities that could enable hackers to access open ports in an organization’s firewalls.
The internal vulnerability scan, on the other hand, is completed inside the network to detect vulnerabilities that could be exploited once a hacker gains entry into the perimeter defenses.
Unauthenticated and authenticated vulnerability scans are similar to the aforementioned external and internal scans. Unauthenticated scans exploit vulnerabilities outside the network in the way a hacker may attempt. By contrast, an authenticated scan uses the organization’s credentials to look inside the network for weak points in security configurations.
Why Vulnerability Scanning Is Essential
A compromised system often causes irreversible damage to an organization’s systems and its brand, causing millions (or billions) of dollars of damage. Without vulnerability scanning, companies are left in the dark, unable to see potential threats before a cyber attack emerges.
To be protected, organizations should complete vulnerability scanning regularly to avoid potentially expensive and destructive cyber attacks. By incorporating vulnerability scanning in a more comprehensive vulnerability management process, your organization can avoid becoming a statistic in an ever-growing list of daily cyber attacks.