How Does a Vulnerability Scan Work?
Once put to work, the vulnerability scanner scans your system for all devices, users, and software for open ports. The scanner then builds an inventory which it runs against a list of vulnerabilities. It’s essential to know that the vulnerability scan can slow your system. If you choose to run an intensive scan, it’s best to do it during after-office hours to avoid affecting the company’s work. However, this could mean that some employee devices could be excluded from the vulnerability scan. You can also reduce the intensity of the scan, but this could mean overlooking some problems.
Alternatively, you can utilize endpoint agents in each device to push data to the vulnerability management system every time the device connects. You can also use adaptive scanning, which detects changes in your network. If a device connects for the first time, the vulnerability scanner jumps into action and scans immediately instead of waiting for the next arranged scan.
Prioritizing risk is essential to avoid overwhelming the IT team and your system. The system checks the list of vulnerabilities and presents the risk associated with each problem. The IT team uses the analysis to decide:
- Which vulnerabilities are critical and have the most significant impact on the organization. However, it’s essential to understand the impact of each vulnerability.
- How hackers can utilize the vulnerabilities to their advantage.
- Whether the existing security system can handle the vulnerabilities.
- Whether to act upon the vulnerability or to ignore it. Is it a false positive, or is it a real problem? Ignorance may be the only alternative if the cost of exploiting a vulnerability if too low, and the cost of fixing it is too high.
Handling Identified Vulnerabilities
There are different ways to handle the weaknesses in a system. Patching or updating specific systems is enough to handle some vulnerabilities. However, in some instances, mitigation is the only way to manage vulnerability. Mitigation measures include:
- Abandoning a vulnerable system by ceasing all usage.
- Adding extra security controls to make it harder to access the system and exploit data.
Types of Vulnerability Scans
Your organization needs different vulnerability scans to confirm the status of your security and ensure compliance. These scans are internal versus external and authorized versus unauthorized.
External Vulnerability Scans
The principle of vulnerability scans is to ‘attack’ an organization’s systems from the outside. An external vulnerability scan targets a system’s firewalls for open ports. It helps your organization identify weaknesses in your security and find ways to fix them. An external scan is essential because it helps your IT security think like hackers, but instead of exploiting the vulnerabilities, they fix them.
Internal Vulnerability Scans
An internal scan happens within the organization. It exposes internal threats such as weak passwords, poor controls, inadequate security checks, or any employees that may have malicious reasons to attack your company’s security. An internal scan helps you manage data and regulate access to different systems depending on their importance to your organization. It also helps you establish policies for security inside the company and ensure that only company devices have access to your systems.
Authorized Vulnerability Scans
Authorized or credentialed scans require logging in with a particular set of credentials. They probe the operating system and software installed in devices, which may not be accessible outside the network.
Unauthorized Vulnerability Scans
Unauthorized scans probe the network to identify open ports. The scanners then try to identify the operating system, the software, and the information that is available without further authentication.
The Benefits of Vulnerability Scanning
- Any gaps in your security systems, data, and employees leave you open to attacks. A vulnerability scan gives you a chance to protect your computer system from breaches.
- Vulnerability scans indirectly help you remain compliant with regulations. Laws such as HIPAA, NIST, and PCI DSS require your business to take all measures to protect private data. Performing frequent scans improves your chances of detecting and patching weaknesses.
- Hackers also utilize vulnerability tools for scanning your computer systems for weaknesses. Having a vulnerability scanner helps you seal any security weaknesses before hackers utilize them.
Vulnerability scans expose the susceptibilities in your computer systems and help you fix weak spots and mitigate risks. They’re essential to help you establish controls and security systems that protect your data from malicious hackers.