Vulnerability assessment is the process of discovering security weaknesses. This is essential to safeguarding your IT infrastructure from cyberattacks.
Even the most secure IT systems can contain a multitude of vulnerabilities. Many of these weaknesses are hidden from view by network architecture.
Regular vulnerability assessments can help reduce your attack risk by highlighting these weaknesses. They can also identify the impact, likelihood and severity of these vulnerabilities.
What is a Vulnerability Assessment Tool?
Vulnerability assessment tools identify and quantify vulnerabilities that attackers could exploit to attack an organization. They are also critical to cybersecurity compliance to detect out-of-process changes, audit configurations, and correct violations.
Vulnerability assessments can be of different types depending on an organization’s needs. A network-based vulnerability scan identifies vulnerable systems on the organization’s wired and wireless networks that could be used to launch security attacks.
A host-based vulnerability scan identifies hosts that connect to an organization’s critical servers and workstations and provides further visibility into configuration settings and patching history. An application vulnerability assessment identifies software applications and web services to search for known vulnerabilities in the configuration of those applications.
A vulnerability assessment tool like Fortinet’s vulnerability assessment tool FortiADC can also help prevent malware infections. Malware is a cyberattack that exploits vulnerabilities to install programs on a target device or system and can damage an organization’s IT infrastructure and cause unauthorized access to data.
A vulnerability assessment can help to prevent malware infections by identifying and addressing the vulnerabilities that attackers would use to install malicious software in an organization’s IT systems.
A vulnerability assessment can also mitigate the effects of DDoS attacks, which are cyberattacks that aim to overwhelm a targeted system or network with traffic or other resources and make it unavailable to legitimate users. A vulnerability assessment can identify and address vulnerabilities that attackers use to initiate DDoS attacks in an organization’s IT systems.
How to Implement a Vulnerability Assessment Tool
Vulnerability assessment must be a continuous process rather than a one-time event. To achieve this, you must implement a vulnerability scanning tool that provides regular and ongoing visibility into security vulnerabilities.
A vulnerability assessment tool should also provide tools that help you prioritize and correct those vulnerabilities that pose the greatest risk to your organization. For example, you should ensure that critical assets like web servers, database servers and content management systems are scanned because cybercriminals can easily target them with a wide range of attack vectors.
To prioritize vulnerabilities, your vulnerability assessment should include a score that correlates the likelihood and impact of a security vulnerability. This score is calculated using information such as the likelihood of the vulnerability being exploited, the number of potential attacks and the effect of an attack if it were successful. Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) ratings provide a useful metric.
The vulnerability assessment should also allow you to assess the risks associated with insider threats. This includes current and former employees who may use a device on the network to access sensitive data or cause damage to the IT infrastructure. To do this, the tool should scan and report the types of vulnerabilities an insider could exploit to gain unauthorized access to systems or data.
Vulnerability scanners are vital in ensuring your IT infrastructure is protected from attacks. They work to identify vulnerabilities in your IT systems, such as unpatched software, misconfigured settings, and weak passwords, that hackers can exploit to gain access to the system.
The goal of a vulnerability scan is to search the system, find these weaknesses and report them so that they can be fixed. This is done non-intrusively, like a security professional checking if your front door is unlocked and letting you know. This differs from penetration testing, which attempts to exploit the weaknesses discovered during the scanning process.
There are a variety of vulnerability scans, each designed for a specific type of IT environment or system. For example, network vulnerability scanners search the entire network, including connected devices, to find weaknesses that could expose a business to cyberattacks.
Wireless scanners work to detect unauthorized WiFi connections and find inconsistencies in the security configuration of data servers. There are also database scanners that identify weaknesses in a company’s database that attackers can use to control information or gain entry into the system through lateral movement.
Credentialed vulnerability scans require a set of credentials to log in as a trusted user, giving them the perspective that an attacker would have if they gained access to the system. They can uncover many vulnerabilities that uncredentialed scans miss because they need to get the insider’s view.
Once vulnerability scans have identified potential weaknesses, they must be analyzed and understood to mitigate the risks. This analysis is accomplished through manual testing, scanning systems and tools, and research using threat intelligence feeds, vendor announcements, and other sources.
Once the analysis is complete, it must be conveyed to program and organization owners clearly and easily digestible via a report. A well-written vulnerability report helps them understand the scale of their systems’ threats and how to prioritize fixing them.
A good report starts with a summary section that provides the big picture, such as how many vulnerabilities were found and their severity level. Then, it moves into more detail about each exposure, including its cause, how the assessment detected it, and its impact. It should also include recommendations for addressing or mitigating the problem.
Finally, the report should include a list of all the discovered vulnerabilities. It is important to remember that many people reading a vulnerability report may not have a technical background, so it’s best to use plain language in this section.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to redact personal information and any other sensitive information before sending the report out. This protects against social engineering attacks and reduces the risk of using the word for other malicious purposes.