Vulnerability scanning is becoming more and more needed as businesses are becoming vulnerable to a wider range of cyber attacks. With cyber-attacks getting more frequent and advanced, companies need to be creative when looking at ways to improve their cybersecurity. Vulnerability scanning is one critical component organisations use in the effort to strengthen cybersecurity measures.

What is vulnerability scanning and why is it crucial?

Vulnerability scanning is the process of inspecting a computer, network, or web application for security weaknesses or vulnerabilities. By identifying these vulnerabilities, organisations can take necessary measures to fix them and prevent potential cyber-attacks.

Cyber attacks can have devastating effects on businesses. According to a report by Cybersecurity Ventures, cybercrime is expected to cost the world $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. This shows how crucial it is for companies to invest in vulnerability scanning to protect their sensitive data, financial health and overall reputation.

The process of vulnerability scanning

Vulnerability management can be similar to risk management in the process that it follows. The process of vulnerability scanning usually involves four steps:

  • Carrying out the vulnerability scan
  • Evaluating the risk
  • Risk prioritisation
  • Risk management

Carrying out the vulnerability scan

This involves the use of automated tools and techniques to evaluate the security of IT assets and detect any vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers or malicious actors.

The process of vulnerability scanning typically starts with defining a scope for the scan, which includes identifying the systems, applications and networks that need to be evaluated. The evaluation should point out any vulnerabilities that the assets have. The evaluation tool may use different techniques such as port scanning, vulnerability database checks, and probing to identify potential vulnerabilities.

After the vulnerability scan is complete, the results are analysed, and a report is generated, detailing the vulnerabilities that were identified. The report provides actionable information for IT professionals to prioritise remediation efforts, patch systems and applications and improve security measures to mitigate the identified security risks.

Evaluating the risk

Assessing the vulnerability risk helps in understanding the scale of what the business is dealing with. What kind of risk is it? How likely is it that it will occur? What kind of impact will it have on the organisation? These are the questions that need to be answered at this stage.

External and internal vulnerability scans can address different areas of risks. External scans can address the assets that are exposed to outsiders such as the website while internal scans can address internal issues that could be attacked by a virus such as cloud storage.

Risk prioritisation

After vulnerabilities have been identified and assessed, the company reaches the risk prioritisation stage.

During the risk prioritisation stage, vulnerabilities are assigned a risk score based on factors analysed, such as the severity of the vulnerability, the impact it may have on the organisation, the ease of exploitation and the likelihood of occurrence. These factors help determine the order in which the identified vulnerabilities should be addressed.

The highest priority is given to vulnerabilities with the highest risk scores, as they pose the most significant threat to the organisation. This ensures that resources are allocated towards addressing the most critical issues first, reducing the likelihood of a potential attack and minimising the impact on the organisation in the event of a successful exploit.

An effective risk prioritisation process involves continuous monitoring and reassessment of vulnerabilities, as new threats may emerge or existing vulnerabilities may evolve as time passes. This ensures that vulnerabilities are addressed promptly and thoroughly, reducing the potential for security breaches and data loss.

Risk management

Risk management in this step refers to the process of controlling, mitigating and avoiding risks (if possible). To manage these risks, it is crucial to have a well-designed vulnerability management strategy in place. This involves defining roles and responsibilities for vulnerability scanning and assessment, ensuring that scanning is conducted regularly and proactively and defining processes for testing and implementing patches to address vulnerabilities. It is also important to keep stakeholders informed about any identified risks and their impacts.

Mitigating these risks requires planning, strong strategies and updated technologies. This will ensure that the company is ready to handle vulnerabilities and will not fall short. This is why the team needs to communicate well, to allow everyone time to prepare and not be caught off guard.

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Benefits of vulnerability scanning

Vulnerability scanning is becoming more popular because now there are many tools out there that are effective in identifying issues early. Vulnerability scanners offer numerous benefits to organisations, including:

1. Identifying security risks

The main point discussed about vulnerability scanning is how it detects security risks that a company may not have known. By discovering these vulnerabilities, organisations can take proactive measures to address them, reducing their risk of a successful attack.

2. Reducing the risk of data breaches

Data breaches can be catastrophic for business growth and success. A data breach can result in the theft of sensitive data, including financial records, customer information and intellectual property. A great example is the Optus data breach that cost the company millions of dollars while competitors benefited from the incident. By identifying vulnerabilities through routine vulnerability scanning, organisations can mitigate the risk of data breaches by addressing weaknesses before they can be taken advantage of.

3. Cost Savings

Cost savingsSecurity breaches and data breaches can be expensive for organisations, both from a financial and reputational perspective. Vulnerability scanning can save organisations significant amounts of money, time and resources in the long run. This is because by detecting threats early, the worst-case scenario can be prevented.

4. Compliance with regulatory requirements

Many industries are subject to regulatory requirements regarding cybersecurity. By using vulnerability scanning, companies can avoid potential penalties and fines related to lawsuits and cyberattacks.

5. Continuous Monitoring

Vulnerability scanning is not a one-time event; it is an ongoing process that should be repeated on a regular basis. By using vulnerability scanning as part of a wider security program, organisations can continuously monitor their security and make changes as necessary. This approach to security enables organisations to stay ahead of new threats and adjust their security systems to reflect changing circumstances. Vulnerability scanning also shows to stakeholders how the business adheres to high standards by constantly monitoring and improving its cybersecurity.

Limitations of vulnerability scanning

Like with every part of risk management (in this case vulnerability management) there are some limitations when it comes to vulnerability scanning:

1. False Positives

One of the most critical limitations of vulnerability scanning is the occurrence of false positives, which are instances where the scanning tool identifies a vulnerability that does not exist in the system or network. False positives can arise for various reasons, such as software misconfigurations or limited information provided. Addressing false positives requires a significant amount of time, effort and resources, which can hinder progress.

2. Limited scope

Another significant limitation of vulnerability scanning is the limited scope of the scanning tool. Scanning tools usually target specific types of vulnerabilities or scan within a specific range of IP addresses or ports, which can leave out potential vulnerabilities in other areas or outside the scan range. Additionally, vulnerability scanning only looks for technical vulnerabilities – it does not detect weaknesses in things like administrative processes or staff training.

3. Lack of context

Vulnerability scanning tools may detect a particular vulnerability but may fail to place it within the broader context of the system or network. Considering each vulnerability in isolation can lead to a failure to recognise the potential impact that a vulnerability can have on the overall security of the business.

4. Limited detection time

Vulnerability scanning is an event-driven activity that is conducted periodically. As such, these scans can only detect vulnerabilities present at the time of scanning. As new vulnerabilities emerge or existing vulnerabilities are exploited, the scanning tool may not detect them until the next scan. This is why regular scans are necessary.

Please remember

Vulnerability scanning is very useful in detecting weaknesses proactively and strengthening your business’s defence against cyberattacks. As it is a tool, it has its own limitations which can be supported with a strong security strategy. This means that the business is always cyber-aware, performs audits and monitors other elements of its risk management regularly. This could include performing penetration testing and analysing the market by conducting risk assessments. Being prepared is necessary as there is no certainty when it comes to cybercrime.

Polonious understands the need for efficient processes when it comes to risk management and audits. We offer our customers a confidential system where they can store all their information, create workflows for risk management and provide them with a risk matrix for prioritisation. Our ISO 27001 and 9001 certifications highlight our commitment to secure and high-quality case management with our customers reporting 38% less administrative time. We know that words are not enough to show you how our system can help you. If you are looking for an efficient case management system reach out and we can give you a demo!