What Is Vulnerability Scanning: Definition, Types, Best Practices
Explaining Vulnerability Scanning And How It Can Help Your Business.
What Is Vulnerability Scanning?
Vulnerability scanning is the process of discovering, analysing, and reporting security flaws and vulnerabilities. Alongside vulnerability assessment, vulnerability scanning is an essential step in the vulnerability management lifecycle. The process is usually performed by the IT department of a company, although there are also third-party security service providers who can take on the task. The scan may also be used by attackers two are looking for points of entry into the company’s network.
Types of Vulnerability Scans
Some vulnerability scanning solutions offer thorough coverage and can run various scan types across various environments, including on-prem, Linux, Windows, cloud, off-site, and onsite. The main types of vulnerability scans used are authenticated scans and unauthenticated scans, but there are also other types of scans that can be employed in specific situations.
In authenticated scans, testers verify the systems from a user’s perspective. The tester logs in as a network user to check for vulnerabilities that are available to trusted users or intruders that have gained access as a trusted user.
As the name implies, through the unauthenticated method, testers perform the scans without having the privileges of a trusted user, the same way as an intruder would. This type of scan reveals what are the vulnerabilities that can be accessed even without having trusted access to the network.
Other Types of Vulnerability Scans
- External Vulnerability Scans: this type of scan targets the areas of a company’s IT ecosystem which are exposed to the Internet, or not restricted. Networks, ports, systems, applications, websites, and more;
- Internal Vulnerability Scans: used for identifying vulnerabilities that leave your systems exposed once a threat actor or malware is in;
- Intrusive Vulnerability Scans: such scans attempt to exploit vulnerabilities when detected. Use intrusive scanning with caution as it may interrupt your operational systems and processes, raise difficulties for your staff and customers, and highlight the potential danger and effect of a vulnerability;
- Non-intrusive Vulnerability Scans: these scans simply identify and report vulnerabilities so that you can fix them in a timely manner;
- Environmental Vulnerability Scans: based on the environment that your business’s technology operates in. Specialized scans are available for a variety of technological deployments, including cloud-based, IoT devices, mobile devices, websites, and more.
Vulnerability Scanning vs. Penetration Testing
A common misconception is that vulnerability scanning is the same as penetration testing, but there are major differences between the two of them:
- The vulnerability scan is an automated high-level process executed by a software to search for potential vulnerability weaknesses, while penetration testing involves a live person actually performing the examination, searching through your network’s complexities to find and exploit weaknesses;
- The role of vulnerability scanning is only to identify weak points in your system, while penetration testing is a process that requires a deeper understanding of the vulnerability. The pen tester will dig deeper to identify the root cause of the vulnerability. It also looks for business logic vulnerabilities that might be missed by an automatic scanner.
Benefits of Vulnerability Scanning
- It’s Proactive: Vulnerability scanning lets you take a proactive approach instead of a reactive one to close any gaps and maintain strong security throughout your systems;
- Meet Compliance Requirements: Cybersecurity compliance and regulations demand secure systems. Vulnerability scanning will help you keep your sensitive data protected and thus keep compliant with industry standards such as NIST, PCI DSS, and HIPAA;
- Protection Against Threat Actors: Before threat actors can take advantage of any security weaknesses, scans must be performed and remedial measures must be taken because cybercriminals also have access to vulnerability scanning tools.
Best Practices for Vulnerability Scanning
Scan Every Device Connected to Your Ecosystem
By scanning every asset in the ecosystem, one may identify the different infrastructure flaws and create a plan for fixing them or accepting the risk. Additionally, make a list of all network devices, regardless of their purpose, and choose which targets to include in your vulnerability screening list from this list.
Make sure to assign owners to the critical assets to make it clear who is responsible for keeping the respective device in running shape, and who is affected if that device is compromised.
Perform Scans Regularly
Vulnerability scans are actually timestamps and show the state of the network at a specific point in time. The time interval between vulnerability scans is a risk factor because this gap leaves your systems open to new vulnerabilities. You must choose whether to scan weekly, monthly, or quarterly and consider the effects it will have on your business. Not all of the devices in your network will require a weekly scan, and not all of the devices in your network should be included in every quarterly scan.
Keep Track of Scans And Document Their Results
Each vulnerability scan should be planned according to a schedule agreed upon by management, with an audit mechanism required to produce thorough reports outlining each scan and its outcomes. Documenting the scan runs will allow your organization to track vulnerability trends and issue recurrence, thus identifying the systems under frequent exposure to threats.
Establish a Remediation Plan
The remediation process should specify the particular levels of severity and the urgency to remedy each found vulnerability, including the necessary timescale, once the results of the scans have been documented and a priority assigned to each device.
Most attacks on a company’s system are linked to vulnerabilities that could have been prevented through proper patching procedures. Prioritization of asset patching can help your business with patching efficiency. It is more crucial to patch all internet-facing devices than it is to patch identical devices that have already been restricted by settings or firewalls.
However, do not confuse prioritizing with neglecting. It is essential to focus on the assets which provide the highest risk levels to your organization.
Luckily, Heimdal®’s Patch & Asset Management solution can come in handy. It is a tool that you govern but runs hyper-automated. Being fully customizable, it can easily fit the needs of your organization.
The Patch & Asset Management solution provides besides fully automated patch management a full inventory management function supporting NIST CM-7 controls so that you can easily see any software assets in your inventory, their version, installed volume, and reports for compliance purposes. Furthermore, it allows you to deploy patches to your devices anytime, from anywhere in the world.
Updates are delivered to you fully tested from Heimdal® using encrypted packages inside encrypted HTTPS transfer to your endpoints locally.
Heimdal® Patch & Asset Management Software
- Schedule updates at your convenience;
- See any software assets in inventory;
- Global deployment and LAN P2P;
- And much more than we can fit in here...
As we saw throughout the article, vulnerability scanning is a process that does not deserve to be neglected. The process requires to be performed regularly, as vulnerabilities can appear at any time, and without caution, we may put our business’s safety at risk. Including in your security strategy the process of vulnerability management will have a great impact on the security of your company by improving the response time to threats, and will give attackers trying to breach your machines a harder time.