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Vulnerability Scanning: What It Is and Why You Need It

2 min read

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Businesses and organizations of all sizes and across all industries are vulnerable to steadily increasing security risks. Vulnerability scanning is one of those things you probably should have started yesterday. But it’s never too late to learn more about vulnerability scanning and incorporate it into your cybersecurity plan.

What is a vulnerability?

A vulnerability is a loophole in your security that can be exploited by a bad actor to get unauthorized access or perform an unauthorized action on a computer, website, or network. Vulnerabilities create opportunities for attack through installing malware, running code, or hacking into sensitive data.

What is vulnerability scanning?

A thorough analysis of your network’s security requires a vulnerability scan. A vulnerability scan is an automated vulnerability management process conducted on a computer or network system to find potential points of exploitation. These automated security tools examine CVEs (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures), weaknesses, misconfigurations, and flaws in an organization’s networks, systems, devices, and applications. Once the vulnerability assessment is complete, a detailed report brings to light the degrees of risk from each vulnerability and ways to mitigate a vulnerability.

Different areas of an IT environment are typically scanned to provide a complete risk assessment.

  • External vulnerability scans. Conducted from outside the organization’s network perimeter, external vulnerability scans target external IP addresses. This type of scan checks a network’s firewall and other perimeter defenses.
  • Internal vulnerability scans. Testing every device on a network, these scans help identify vulnerabilities that leave a business at risk once a hacker or malware makes it inside.
  • Environmental scans. These scans are done based on the environment that a business technology operates in, such as the cloud.
Vulnerability scanning vs. penetration testing

While you may have heard both terms when discussing your network security, a vulnerability scan is not the same as a penetration test. A penetration test, or pen test, is an active manual attempt to gain access to a system through an already-known vulnerability or misconfiguration. Vulnerability scanning focuses on prevention, not penetration. A vulnerability scan is typically administered more frequently than a penetration test, but they work together and are requirements for a comprehensive cybersecurity plan.

Why is vulnerability scanning so important?

There are many reasons vulnerability scanning should be part of your cybersecurity plan.

  • Mitigate risk. By detecting unpatched software, broken authentication, security misconfigurations, and other security risks, you may be saving your organization from a costly data breach or malware attack.
  • Industry compliance. Many industries have regulatory requirements to have internal and external vulnerability assessments done on a regular basis. Industries with HIPAA and SOX compliance, along with banks and credit unions require vulnerability assessments. Your business’s cybersecurity insurance, regardless of industry, may also require it.
  • One step ahead. Cybercriminals also have access to vulnerability scanning tools, so it is vital to carry out scans and take action before the hackers do.
Incorporate an ongoing vulnerability management program into your cybersecurity plan

An ongoing vulnerability management program is an essential component of your commitment to proactively identify vulnerability and security risks for your business. Through a regular regimen of vulnerability scanning, you can continually identify, organize, and address vulnerabilities that could otherwise put your network security at risk. By mitigating those risks systematically, your organization has the insight it needs to remediate, maintain regulatory compliance, and have a strong cybersecurity posture. Contact us to get started.

 

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