Securing your network should be your top priority, and your IT security team or service provider should make it their key responsibility. Vulnerability management involves assessing, mitigating, and reporting any breach or security vulnerability in your system.
Though vulnerabilities are a real threat to businesses, IT security teams can manage them if they are discovered and identified. One of the best ways to do this is through a complete vulnerability scanning program.
What is Vulnerability Scanning?
A vulnerability scanner is an application that the IT team uses to identify and create a record of all the systems connected to the network in your company. The systems can include virtual machines, servers, switches, desktops, firewalls, laptops, and printers.
For every device that the scanner identifies, it proceeds to identify the software installed on it and the operating system that it runs. It also identifies the devices' user accounts and open ports. Several vulnerability scanners also try to log in to the system using the default log-ins or any other identifications to build a more exhaustive picture of the system.
Once it has built an inventory, the scanner rechecks every item in the inventory for one or more records of known vulnerabilities to check if any items are subject to the vulnerabilities. The result of the scan is a record of any system found and identified on the network, and it highlights those with known vulnerabilities.
Vulnerability Scanning Vs. Penetration Testing
Penetration testing and vulnerability scanning are two different security procedures and are used for different purposes. Penetration tests focus on identifying weaknesses in a particular system, configurations, and organizational practices and processes that can be misused to compromise security, while vulnerability scanning focuses on identifying systems that are subject to known vulnerabilities.
How Penetration Testing Works
Penetration testing can involve using social engineering techniques like impersonating a manager in your organization and asking your employee for a password to access a system or database. Pen tests can also include sending phishing emails to access accounts and diverting and using unencrypted passwords.
How Vulnerability Scanning Works
The scanner locates software and systems that have security vulnerabilities. The scan results are only helpful to your IT security team if they use the right vulnerability management process. This process includes:
Identification of Vulnerabilities
Identification is only possible through vulnerability scanning. The scanner's efficiency depends on its ability to locate and identify devices, open ports, software, and gather any other information. It also depends on its ability to associate the information with known vulnerability information from the vulnerability databases.
Your IT team can configure the scanning to be intrusive or aggressive. This is crucial because the process can affect the stability or performance of the systems being scanned. The process can also cause bandwidth issues on your networks.
To avoid this, your IT team can schedule the scanning after business hours. However, this is only possible if your employees leave their laptops and desktops connected to the network. The IT team can also use endpoint agents running on the laptops or any other device or use adaptive vulnerability scanning to detect changes to the network and allow the scanners to launch automatically and scan the new system.
Evaluation of Risks
Scanning can sometimes identify and record several vulnerabilities, which can overwhelm the resource your IT security team has. Evaluating the risks can help the team decide how critical each risk or vulnerability is, its impact on your organization if not resolved, and what risk to prioritize. This can help mitigate overall security risks rapidly and effectively.
Treatment of Identified Vulnerabilities
Possible vulnerabilities detected during scanning should be patched or fixed so that they do not continue to pose a risk. Suppose the team cannot find a fix or patch. In that case, they can mitigate risks by stopping the use of the vulnerable system, adding security measures to make it harder to exploit, or any other action that reduces the impact of successful exploitation.
If the risk the vulnerability poses is low, your IT team can accept that it exists and take no further action.
Types of Vulnerability Scanning
Vulnerability scans are different. IT security teams should carry out internal and external scans to ensure compliance with regulations set by the PCI Security Standards Council and other regulatory bodies.
Your IT team will carry out an external vulnerability scan from outside your organization's network. Its primary purpose is to detect vulnerabilities in open ports in the network firewall or a particular web application firewall. Internal scans are carried out from inside your organization's perimeter defenses, and it detects risks that disgruntled employees and hackers can exploit.
The team can also carry out unauthenticated and authenticated scans to look for weaknesses in the network perimeter and provide vulnerability scanners with various privileged credentials.
Other complementary security measures that your IT team can take include breach and attack simulation (BAS), threat hunting, and application security testing. You can use various vulnerability scanning tools such and open source vulnerability scanners.
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