Despite the presence of these databases, it is surprising to learn that 80% of enterprise applications still have at least a single unpatched vulnerability. Such a point of weakness is simply the sign of a data breach waiting to happen. With a vulnerability scan, however, your IT department can identify and patch vulnerabilities as well as come up with sustainable solutions.
Here is what to know about vulnerability scans and their use in building a strong cybersecurity posture:
What Is Vulnerability Scanning?In a nutshell, vulnerability scanning involves assessing your business’ systems for security issues. This includes systems like servers, virtual machines, laptops, desktops, firewalls, printers, switches, and containers. A vulnerability scanner will attempt to establish the operating system, software, open ports, and any user accounts that a scanned system contains.
Once it is done building an inventory of your IT assets, the scanner will then compare every item in the inventory against the data in vulnerability databases to identify if any of these items have vulnerabilities. It is the role of your IT department to work on patching the vulnerabilities that demand attention. The comforting thing is that most of the vulnerabilities in these databases already have a patch, which you can apply to your affected systems.
Vulnerability Scanning Vs. Penetration TestingAlthough they are quite different, it is common for people to confuse vulnerability scanning with penetration testing. A vulnerability scan aims at identifying corporate systems that might be subject to already known vulnerabilities, while a penetration test aims at identifying weaknesses within your organizational processes and practices as well as specific system configurations that could easily be exploited by cybercriminals. Here are some of the practices that are involved in a penetration test, but aren’t done in a vulnerability scan:
- Sending users phishing emails with the aim of accessing their accounts
- Intercepting unencrypted passwords that are shared over the network and using them.
- Using other social engineering techniques to gain access to corporate accounts and data
The Vulnerability Management ProcessThere are four steps of vulnerability scanning, which include:
1. Identification of Vulnerabilities
In this part of the process, you will need to use a dependable vulnerability scanner to identify vulnerabilities in your system. The efficacy of your scanner will depend on:
- Its ability to locate and gather system information about the different devices, software, and open ports, among other system devices.
- Its ability to compare this information against the information from one or multiple vulnerability databases
Since a vulnerability scan can easily affect the performance and stability of your system, you should consider configuring the scan to be less intrusive or aggressive. A good solution to this would be to conduct the vulnerability scan outside business hours, although this might limit the chances that employees will have connected their laptops to the network for the scan.
Among the best ways to circumvent this challenge would be to conduct adaptive vulnerability scanning, which allows the scanner to identify changes to the network, such as when an employee connects their laptop to the system for the first time. In this situation, the scanner will launch automatically to scan the device instead of waiting for the next scan. To be safe, you should also consider creating a culture that makes reporting vulnerabilities easy.
2. Evaluating the Risks
Vulnerability scans can present IT teams with a large number of vulnerabilities, which can be tiring to patch. Evaluating the risks posed by the vulnerabilities will help your team triage the vulnerabilities to identify those that need the most attention. With enough evaluation, your team will establish:
- The potential impact of a vulnerability
- The effectiveness of current security controls in dealing with the risk posed by the vulnerability
- The practicality of hackers exploiting the vulnerability
- Whether a vulnerability was a false positive or not
Ranking these vulnerabilities also ensure that IT and business resources are used optimally.
3. Treating the Identified Vulnerabilities
In a perfect world, solving system vulnerabilities would be as easy as applying their ad hoc patches. Unfortunately, this option isn’t always available owing to limited business resources and premature vulnerability patches. Your IT team might need to look for other ways to circumvent the risk posed by the vulnerability.
For instance, you can stop using the vulnerable system to mitigate the risk. You could also add other security controls to your existing ones to make it tough for hackers to exploit the vulnerability or reduce the impact that a successful exploit could have on your business. If the cost of mitigating the vulnerability is lower than the impact of a successful exploit, you should consider accepting/ignoring the vulnerability.
4. Report the Chosen Treatment Measures
Reporting these measures ensures that they are well-documented. IT teams and employees can refer to these documents whenever they need to access this information. The documents can also help with complying with regulations that require such reports.
Vulnerability databases were created to make it easier for businesses to deal with known vulnerabilities. It would be a shame to have your business maimed by one. For the sake of your security posture, add vulnerability scans to your cybersecurity strategy, and enjoy using secure systems.