In today’s tech-savvy world, data breaches and cyberattacks have become commonplace. According to a recent IBM report, the average cost of data breaches is $3.92 million. The reputational losses that result from these incidents are even higher. Therefore, cybersecurity should be an issue of great concern to both small and large organizations.
To counter the ever-emerging threats, vulnerability scanning should be a core component of your cybersecurity strategy. Whether your organization wants to improve its existing cybersecurity controls or to embark on the journey to becoming more cyber-secure, you need to learn how vulnerability scanners can help you achieve your goals.
What is Vulnerability Scanning?
As the name implies, vulnerability scanning entails using different software tools to detect and report security threats that your system faces. Vulnerability scanners leverage automated tests to gather information about a network and identify security gaps that hackers can use to access it.
The insights you gain from vulnerability scans can help you take relevant action to remediate the security weaknesses you identified. The overall process of identifying and remediating security gaps in your system is referred to as Vulnerability Management.
Vulnerability scanning is sometimes confused with penetration testing. Although these two procedures aim at enhancing your cybersecurity stance, they are quite different. Vulnerability scanning seeks to identify systems that are vulnerable to known vulnerabilities. On the other hand, penetration testing is conducted to pinpoint weaknesses in specific organizational processes and system configurations that hackers can leverage to access your data.
The efficiency of vulnerability scanners depends on:
- The scanners’ ability to locate and pinpoint devices, open ports, and software, and any other relevant system information
- The scanners’ ability to link the gathered information with data collected from different vulnerability databases
Types of Vulnerability Scanners
Generally, vulnerability scanners are categorized based on the type of systems they scan. There are five different types of vulnerability scanners. These are:
Internal vs. External Vulnerability Scans
Internal vulnerability scans are conducted from within an organization’s network. They help you to protect and harden systems and applications that aren’t covered by external scans. Internal vulnerability scans are used to identify a host of issues, including:
- Vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit to penetrate your network
- Threats posed by malware that has already infiltrated the network
- Threats posed by employees, contractors, and other disgruntled insiders
On the other hand, external vulnerability scans help your organization pinpoint and remediate security vulnerabilities that foreign actors can leverage to access your network. Typically, you perform external vulnerability scans from outside your organization’s network.
The scans target IT infrastructure that is unprotected, including networks, ports, and web applications. External vulnerability scans detect weaknesses in the perimeter defenses that you have in place, including:
- Open ports in your network’s firewalls
- Specialized web application firewalls
Authenticated vs. Unauthenticated Scans
It’s vital to ensure that your vulnerability scanners are devoid of lapses, more so when it comes to threat detection. In this regard, it’s advisable to conduct both authenticated and unauthenticated scans. The former allows you to log into your network as a user. This way, you get to see the vulnerabilities therein from the perspective of a trusted user.
Unauthenticated scans allow you to log into your network as an intruder. Therefore, you get to review the system from the perspective of a hacker. To ensure that your network is fully protected, it’s best to schedule both authenticated and unauthenticated scans. Scanning the network under all circumstances enables you to evolve your cybersecurity stance and address emerging threats. This way, your company will be completely secure from both internal and external threats.
In today’s digital world, all organizations should leverage vulnerability scans to mitigate cybersecurity risk. In doing so, it will be easier to analyze and detect vulnerabilities across an organization’s entire attack surface.
Vulnerability scanners can help you identify and prioritize threats according to the risk that they pose to your organization and its digital assets. Therefore, they are a must-have for every modern organization.