Everything You Need to Know to Conduct an Effective Vulnerability Assessment!
Last updated on October 5, 2023
Vulnerabilities are common to any business. And judging by the pace at which threat actors are advancing in their technologies, it is crucial for businesses to have the right security protocols implemented before it’s too late. Today, we will take a look at the process of vulnerability assessment, what are the types of assessment, why is important, and how you can do it.
What Is Vulnerability Assessment?
A vulnerability assessment is the testing process used to identify, classify, and prioritize vulnerabilities in computer systems, applications, and networks.
This procedure could include both automatic and manual methods, with different rigor levels and a focus on thorough coverage. Vulnerability assessments may focus on various technological layers using a risk-based methodology, with host-, network-, and application-layer assessments being the most popular.
A comprehensive vulnerability analysis will identify, prioritize, and assign security levels to the weaknesses it identified, after which it will come up with solutions and recommendations to mitigate or remediate the vulnerabilities.
Types of Vulnerability Assessments
Different kinds of system or network vulnerabilities are found by vulnerability assessments. This means that a range of tools, scanners, and procedures are used during the assessment process to find vulnerabilities, threats, and hazards.
1. Network-Based Scans
This type of scan, as its name implies, aids in identifying potential security holes in wired and wireless networks.
2. Host-Based Assessment
This kind of analysis looks for any vulnerabilities or dangers in server workstations and other network sites. It also entails a careful analysis of ports and services.
3. Database Assessment
In order to stop malicious attacks like distributed denial-of-service (DDoS), SQL injection, brute force attacks, and others, this assessment entails finding security gaps in a database.
4. Application Scans
Has the purpose of identifying vulnerabilities found in web applications and their code, by initiating automated scans on front-end or static/dynamic analysis of source code;
Vulnerability Assessment Stages
1. Vulnerability Scanning
Vulnerability scanning is the process of discovering and making a complete list of vulnerabilities in your IT infrastructure. In order to complete this phase, you must conduct both an automated vulnerability scan and a penetration test, in order to verify results and minimize false positives. We will be talking about the differences between the two, as the implication of both processes is often misunderstood and overlooked.
2. Vulnerability Analysis
The purpose of this step is to identify the source and root cause of the vulnerabilities identified during the first step.
3. Risk Assessment
After the second step, prioritize the vulnerabilities for remediation based on the risks they pose to your organization. When prioritizing, take into consideration:
The potential damage that could be caused by an exposure;
Which business functions could be affected in the case of an exploit;
How easy is for attackers to exploit the vulnerability.
4. Remediation or Mitigation
The final step of the process is closing the security gaps. Based on the case, remove the vulnerability from the system by applying a patch, or in case the vulnerability cannot be completely removed, mitigate it to reduce its impact.
Vulnerability assessment is a continuous process, so after completing the procedure, make sure to repeat it as often as possible, as in today’s fast paced environment new vulnerabilities appear on a daily basis.
Vulnerability Assessment vs. Penetration Testing
Vulnerability assessment encapsulates a penetration testing component, which is responsible for identifying vulnerabilities in an organization’s personnel, procedures, or processes. The process encompassing the two is often referred to as VAPN (vulnerability assessment/penetration testing).
The two are actually separate processes, but executing penetration testing is not as complete as a vulnerability assessment.
The vulnerability assessment uses automated network security scanning tools to uncover vulnerabilities present in a network and to recommend the appropriate mitigation steps to reduce or even remove the malware.
The findings are listed in a vulnerability assessment report, which provides businesses with a comprehensive list of vulnerabilities in need to be fixed. However, it does so without considering certain attack objectives or scenarios.
Contrarily, penetration testing is a goal-oriented strategy that examines how a hacker might get past protections by simulating a real-world cyberattack in a controlled environment. Both automated tools and human acting as an attacker are used in this testing.
The Importance of Vulnerability Assessment
Assessing vulnerabilities regularly is critical to a strong cybersecurity position in your business. An organization is nearly certain to have at least one unpatched vulnerability that puts it at risk due to the sheer amount of vulnerabilities that exist and the complexity of the typical company’s digital infrastructure.
Each year, thousands of new vulnerabilities are found by organisations, requiring ongoing patching and reconfiguration to safeguard their operating systems, applications, and network infrastructure. Many businesses, however, do not implement the required fixes in time because they lack an efficient patch management system.
Vulnerability assessment can make the difference between a successful assault and a pricey and embarrassing data breach or ransomware outbreak to discover these vulnerabilities before an attacker does.
How Can Heimdal® Help Your Organization?
Automated solutions became the new industry standard in the last years. With organizations now handling more devices, and vulnerabilities appearing faster than ever, manually conducting vulnerability assessments and patching is not efficient anymore.
Being a fully automated patch management solution, fully customizable to fit your organization’s needs, and capable of performing vulnerability management procedures, Heimdal®’s Patch & Asset Management software comes in handy.
Cristian is a Content Editor & Creator at Heimdal®, where he developed a deep understanding of the digital threat landscape. His style resonates with both technical and non-technical readers, proof being in his skill of communicating cybersecurity norms effectively, in an easy-to-understand manner.