What is vulnerability scanning, and how does it work?

9/4/23 8:00 AM  |  by RedLegg Blog

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While connectivity is an essential lifeline of modern-day enterprises and institutions, we can't forget that it also exposes financial and personal information to potential vulnerabilities through devices, apps, systems, and networks. We can even go so far as to say that it's not a matter of if you will have a cyber attack, but when.

During the first quarter of 2023, more than 6 million data records were exposed worldwide through data breaches. How can you safeguard your business data and networks from becoming a statistic on these cybercrime reports? 

A rapidly evolving threat landscape requires continuous monitoring of external and internal environments to identify potential weaknesses and plug them before malicious cyber threat actors can exploit them—it's a race against time and a battle of wits!

Vulnerability scanning is a fundamental tactic for maintaining a strong security posture.

In this article, we discuss how you can effectively integrate vulnerability scanning into your organization's security practices and how RedLegg supports you with a robust vulnerability scanning toolkit tailored for your organization.

Understanding Vulnerability Scanning

Vulnerability scanning—or vuln scan, as cybersecurity professionals prefer calling it—is a proactive cybersecurity practice aimed at assessing your current security posture to uncover potential weaknesses that malicious threat actors can exploit to gain unauthorized access to your network and systems.

One gap in your cybersecurity is enough to give cyber threat actors access to your network and valuable business data. 

Attackers use the same vulnerability scanning tools to continuously look for security gaps for a large number of companies. The moment they spot a gap, they move fast to exploit it and breach your network.

Regular vulnerability scanning allows your IT team or third-party cybersecurity partner to systematically monitor and analyze your systems and networks for bugs, weak passwords, systems misconfigurations, and other security gaps. 

A vulnerability scan is a specialized software that an organization can deploy to inspect the target attack surface. The vulnerability scanner then compares the target network's details with a database of known vulnerabilities, which is regularly updated to include newly discovered issues.

The scan generates a report that your IT team or security services provider can analyze and interpret to identify opportunities to improve security posture. It highlights security fixes or missing service packs, identifies malware and coding flaws, and monitors remote access.

Vulnerability scans also provide risk scores or severity ratings for each identified vulnerability, helping you prioritize which vulnerabilities to focus on based on their potential impact and the likelihood of a successful attack. Moreover, they can predict how effective countermeasures are likely to be in case of a threat or attack.

RedLegg helps you find your security weaknesses with advanced penetration testing. And fix them with detailed corrective actions so you can begin to remediate asap.

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Categories of Network Vulnerability Scans

Network vulnerability scans can be categorized broadly into non-intrusive vulnerability scans and intrusive vulnerability assessments based on the end goal of the scan or assessment.

Let's look at two broad scan methods: 

Non-intrusive vulnerability scans

This method identifies a vulnerability and generates a report for the user to fix it. The scanning software identifies the vulnerabilities without exploiting them or causing any disruption to their everyday operations. 

Intrusive vulnerability assessments

Intrusive assessments go beyond merely identifying vulnerabilities. They actively create an attack plan and exploit the vulnerability in a simulated attack to demonstrate its potential impact and consequences. 

It evaluates how well an organization's defenses can withstand different threats. 

Penetration testing is an example of an intrusive assessment. 

Learn more about RedLegg's penetration testing services here.

Some may argue that intrusive assessments must be cautiously used as they disrupt processes and operational systems in the network, which can lead to issues for your organization as well as your customers. However, remember it's better to sweat during peace than bleed during war! 

This means system downtime or operational disruption during a controlled simulation is far better than widespread disruption and disastrous consequences of a hacker exploiting a security vulnerability. 

These two categories of vulnerability scans offer two perspectives: Non-intrusive scans identify vulnerabilities that attackers from outside the organization might exploit, while intrusive methods show what an attacker with insider access could do. Both play vital roles in your security strategy, so it's best to integrate both these methods to develop comprehensive and effective strategies to enhance your overall security posture.

RedLegg offers vulnerability scanning and penetration testing solutions unique to your people, processes, and technologies. 

Test your business's security from every angle with RedLegg!

Types of Vulnerability Scanning

Different types of vulnerability scans serve their own purposes and are equally vital for improving the security posture of your network.

External vulnerability scans 

External scans target the areas of an IT ecosystem that are exposed to the internet, that network's publicly accessible resources that are not restricted or don't need internal authorization.

These areas can include applications, ports, websites, services, networks, and systems that are accessible to external customers or users.

These scans play an essential role in identifying vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit from outside your organization. 

They help you proactively secure internet-facing systems or public resources to service disruptions.

Internal vulnerability scans 

Internal scans search for and identify the vulnerabilities inside the network. Malicious actors may not always attack your network from the outside. They can gain insider access to your network and breach the perimeter defenses. Internal scans analyze the security of devices and systems within your network and provide robust security measures to mitigate any potential attack from inside the system. Internal scans protect and tighten the security of systems and apps that are not covered by external scans.

Environmental vulnerability scans

Environmental vulnerability scans are a type of vulnerability assessment that take into account the unique characteristics and context of your organization's technology operations or broader aspects of your industry. These vulnerability scans are specialized and are available to deploy for multiple technologies, such as IoT devices, websites, cloud-based services, and mobile devices.

Each category and type of network vulnerability scanning serves a distinct purpose. Deploying scans and assessments of various types gives you a holistic perspective of your vulnerabilities and current security posture. 

You can then devise a comprehensive strategy and take proactive measures to mitigate risks, secure your network and systems from both internal and external threats, and enhance your overall cybersecurity posture.

Want to see a sample report? 

Download your free sample report to see how an external and internal penetration test can help better protect your company from a breach.

Don't know how to read a vulnerability assessment report? Read this article and get a step ahead in your cybersecurity assessments!

RedLegg: Leveraging Vulnerability Scanning for Stronger Security

Vulnerability scanning is an important first step to fortifying your cyber defenses. 

Scanning and analysis provide information and vulnerability discovery that can help fine-tune a penetration test, giving you the greatest return on your security testing investment.

RedLegg offers comprehensive assessments for all industries, protecting networks, applications, and physical environments with managed vulnerability scanning services.

Our solid methodology includes manual and automated testing to find vulnerabilities that automated tools cannot see. Our cybersecurity experts help you understand the implications of your findings and give you actionable steps for remediation for most exploited vulnerabilities.

Vulnerability detection is an essential component of their information security practices. Talk to RedLegg for a proven vulnerability scanning process that ensures you get high-quality results and provides you with the resources you need to move forward.

Whether it is for comprehensive security scanning, assessing threat vulnerability, threat intelligence services or managed security services, you can rely on RedLegg. 

Connect with RedLegg's vulnerability testing experts today!

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Want more? Read about vulnerability scanning best practices, or how to read a vulnerability assessment report. Better yet, listen to the webinar on quality vulnerability scans, assessments, and pen tests.

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