We rely on technology, from making quick internet searches to storing business data on cloud servers. But that comes at a price.
Vulnerability assessments identify flaws in software that attackers can exploit and help reduce risk. They include a penetration testing component to gauge security defenses.
A comprehensive vulnerability assessment leverages multiple automated tools to scan the entire IT environment, identifying vulnerabilities on all network layers. This includes traditional networks, wireless infrastructure, endpoints, servers, containers, workstations, workloads, and databases. Performing these scans is critical because unpatched vulnerabilities make over 60% of data breaches possible.
Once an initial scan is complete, reviewing the results and determining which vulnerabilities pose the highest risk to the organization is essential. This helps to ensure that the most severe vulnerabilities are identified and resolved first. It is also a good idea to include the results of this phase in ongoing vulnerability assessments.
Ongoing vulnerability assessments are critical because the IT landscape is constantly changing. Even if you have already addressed the most severe vulnerabilities during an initial vulnerability assessment, new ones may have emerged in the interim. The threat landscape also continues to evolve, and the nature/sophistication of attacks continues to improve.
By regularly scanning using automated tools, you can discover new vulnerabilities, identify risks and make changes before malicious actors exploit them. This process can help to close the window of opportunity that attackers have by reducing the number of unknown vulnerabilities, security misconfigurations, and weaknesses within your network, applications, third-party components, code, perimeter systems, and more.
The vulnerability assessment process identifies, quantifies, and prioritizes vulnerabilities in your IT system. This includes scanning and assessing your network infrastructure, hardware, devices, applications, and databases for any flaws malicious actors could exploit. It also evaluates your risk level and determines what steps must be taken to address the vulnerabilities.
Vulnerability assessments are conducted manually or using vulnerability assessment software that systematically scans your systems for known vulnerabilities. This helps eliminate human error and provides more comprehensive results. It also reduces time and resource costs by automating the process.
Some vulnerability assessments include penetration testing, which examines an IT system or network from an attacker’s perspective to identify any weaknesses that could be exploited to gain access. It combines vulnerability scanning with simulated attacks to help determine whether a vulnerability is exploitable and how severe the attack would be.
Best practices also include routine vulnerability assessments and scanning during the development process of applications to identify potential issues before they are deployed in production. This allows businesses to train developers in secure coding techniques and ensure that source codes, frameworks, plug-ins, and other components are safe before they are brought into the production environment. This can significantly reduce the number of vulnerabilities uncovered during a vulnerability assessment.
The vulnerabilities discovered in an assessment must be addressed. This may involve deploying security patches or other remediation techniques. It’s essential to prioritize vulnerabilities according to their severity, exploitability, and impact on your business. This helps ensure you address the most pressing problems first and use your resources wisely.
Vulnerability assessments can be performed using different tools and scanners. For example, network-based scans identify vulnerabilities in wired and wireless networks, while host-based scanning detects systems, workstations, servers, and other IT devices. It is also common to use application-based scanners that test web applications for known weaknesses and misconfigurations. For instance, phishing and social engineering attacks can exploit various Web application vulnerabilities, including SQL injection and cross-site scripting (XSS).
A best practice is operationalizing the vulnerability assessment process by scheduling regular, automated scans and ensuring that results are fed into an ongoing vulnerability assessment operation. This will help you close the vulnerability window by discovering and addressing vulnerabilities before cybercriminals exploit them.
It’s also essential to incorporate vulnerability assessment and penetration testing into your software development lifecycle (SDLC) processes so that weaknesses are identified and fixed before a system goes live. This will help you avoid costly mistakes, reduce the risk of a data breach and maintain compliance with regulatory standards. This is typically accomplished through the implementation of DevSecOps.
It’s impossible to eliminate every vulnerability factor, but a vulnerability assessment can clearly show how vulnerable your network and hardware are to hackers. It’s also a process that can help you monitor and manage these vulnerabilities, demonstrating vigilance and reducing the likelihood of getting hit with a major hack.
A vulnerability assessment utilizes multiple automated tools to perform a variety of scans and identify vulnerabilities and threats. This includes scanning the entire IT environment and identifying systems, servers, containers, workstations, workloads, databases, and other devices that could be compromised during cyber attacks. Network-based scanners can detect vulnerable systems across both wired and wireless networks, while host-based vulnerability scans can identify issues in individual servers or hosts. Then, a consolidated list of all the vulnerabilities found helps you prioritize and remediate them.
Creating detailed reports alongside each vulnerability assessment is essential, as this will allow your teams to keep track of and communicate findings with stakeholders. This also allows you to measure the effectiveness of your security program over time and ensure that vulnerabilities are not slipping through the cracks as your organization moves forward. These reports can also be used to educate non-technical stakeholders, such as members of the C-suite, about cybersecurity and their roles in protecting the organization’s most critical assets.