It is the responsibility of the IT security team of any business to manage any security vulnerabilities and minimize the business’s cybersecurity risk. Discovering and identifying these vulnerabilities is crucial to managing the risk, and for this, you will need a vulnerability scanner.
What Is A Vulnerability Scanner?
A vulnerability scanner is a program or application that attempts to identify the vulnerabilities in an organization’s applications, computer systems, and networks. It will look at the services running on your inventory of internal and external assets and identify not only the type of vulnerability but also the degree of risk that comes with each of these vulnerabilities.
Types Of Vulnerability Scanners
There is a wide selection of vulnerability scanners available, each with its own combination of stand-out features and capabilities. There are free, open-source scanners as well as more sophisticated systems for enterprises. These scanners are supported on various operating systems.
Companies should conduct a vulnerability scan at least monthly and remediate the vulnerabilities identified. Critical and high-risk systems require more than a monthly scan. In addition, companies across different sectors can benefit significantly from managed services that run vulnerability scans on different assets on a regular basis.
Based on the type of asset scanned, there are five main classifications of vulnerability scanners.
- Application Scanners: These vulnerability scanners run tests on websites. They detect erroneous configurations in web applications and known or already-catalogued software vulnerabilities.
- Database Scanners: These are scanners that run on and identify vulnerabilities in a database.
- Network Scanners: This class of scanners identify security vulnerabilities on both wired and wireless networks.
- Wireless Scanners: The scanners check that a business’ network is configured securely and detects any rogue access points on the network.
- Host-Based Scanners: Running these scanners helps to identify vulnerabilities in servers and other network hosts. The scan results reveal the network host’s configuration settings as well as their patch history.
How Vulnerability Scanners Work
Vulnerability management is a 4-step process that follows this sequence:
- Identification of system or network vulnerabilities
- Assessment of the degree of risk posed by the identified vulnerabilities
- Remediation of identified vulnerabilities
- Reporting on the identified vulnerabilities, highlighting how they have been, or could be handled.
Linked to the vulnerability scanners is a preset database of vulnerabilities and security flaws. The scanners will identify any unauthorized devices connected to your network. These devices will be categorized according to their type, and for each device, the vulnerability scanner will identify the system on which the device runs as well as the last applied security patch. Vulnerability scanners lookout for any type of system weakness, including missing software patches or firmware updates.
How aggressive or intrusive the scan will become down to configuration. It is important to configure the scan as there is always a risk of the scan affecting the stability of the system being scanned. Some networks may even experience some bandwidth issues during the scan. Professional network security experts do have several effective workarounds.
The scanners will check the identified scanners against the preset database. They will then organize the vulnerabilities in order of importance with the required remediation action. This is not the case with all scanners, as some are geared towards vulnerability assessment and monitoring and not on vulnerability management. If your business has such a system, the IT security team has to assess the identified threats and come up with a plan to address them.
Scanners that automate the remediation action will save your team a lot of time. This is especially true for common problems affecting many devices at a time, such as misconfigurations.
The final step to the vulnerability scanning process is report generation. The report details the findings of the reports, that is, the vulnerabilities identified. Your in-house and/or outsourced network security team will use these findings to make a plan for remediating the vulnerabilities and reinforcing your cybersecurity going forward.
Types Of Vulnerability Scans
Vulnerability scanners are deployed for carrying out two distinct types of scans, that is, external and internal vulnerability scans.
- External Vulnerability Scans. They are carried out from without, that is, outside your network, with the aim of identifying vulnerabilities and threats in the network’s perimeter defences. Such are the vulnerabilities that hackers would exploit to gain unauthorized access to your network.
- Internal Vulnerability Scans. They are done from within your business’ network. The scan serves to detect and identify the kind of vulnerabilities a hacker who has already gotten past your perimeter defences would explore. It also explores the vulnerabilities, referred to as insider threats, that would be explored by anyone with legitimate access to your network, such as a disgruntled employee.
Cybercriminals are always looking for exploitable vulnerabilities. Using a vulnerability scanner, you can identify and remediate these vulnerabilities before the cybercriminals get to exploit them.