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The Must-Have Features for Vulnerability Assessments and Scanners

Vulnerability assessment and scans can both be eye-opening exercises for your security team. But, what are the must-have features for each?

The Must-Have Features for Vulnerability Assessments and Scanners.jpg

In this blog, we explore the most important aspects of a vulnerability assessment and scanners.

Before we dive into each unique feature, let’s explore the slight differences between a vulnerability assessment and scanner.

A vulnerability assessment is a method used by a qualified provider to identify vulnerabilities that can compromise your security, performance, or functionality of your network, applications, systems, and data. A vulnerability scanner is a tool used to analyze your environment and identify any vulnerabilities, such as unpatched systems, poorly configured devices, or other existing exploits.

Asset Discovery

An essential first step when evaluating your vulnerabilities is to run an asset discovery. The asset discovery picks up any IT asset on your network. Beyond that, an asset discovery helps with hardware and software management, risk and compliance, and overall security management.

A must-have feature for a vulnerability scanner is the ability to automate asset searches. Automating IT asset searches allows you to identify any new assets registered on the network. This can be particularly helpful if your end users bring an unpatched IoT device that could pose a significant threat to your network. If you don’t know what you have or what’s on the network, you will have a hard time winning in security. The more you know, the better!

Scanning Capabilities

During any vulnerability assessment or scan, a first step is to scan the network for vulnerabilities. There are two types of scans that can take place. An authenticated or non-authenticated scan. An authenticated scan is a vulnerability scan that is performed by an authenticated user– a user with login credentials. The non-authenticated scan performs a vulnerability scan by not using usernames or passwords during the scanning. You can think of this as a surface level scan.

An authenticated scan can be much more comprehensive than a non-authenticated scan. It shows you more vulnerabilities compared to the non-authenticated scan. However, an authenticated scan can cause issues within your systems and applications because it runs deep within your network and applications. So, you may want to start with the non-authenticated scan first.

A non-authenticated scan often detects backdoors, expired certificates, unpatched software, weak passwords, and poor encryption protocols. With authenticated scans, you typically find poor configurations, malicious plug-ins and code, and insecure registry entries.

A must-have during your vulnerability assessment is a web application scan. Web application scanning uncovers malware, vulnerabilities, and flaws. During a web application scan, the assessor or scanner is looking for cross-site scripting, command injections, code injection, insecure cookies, and more.

In general, vulnerability assessments and scanning can usually uncover the following vulnerabilities:

  • Common Backdoors Detection
  • Backup Files
  • Captcha Detection
  • Code Injection
  • Common Directories
  • Card number disclosure
  • Cross-site request forgery
  • Directory Listing
  • File Inclusion
  • .htaccess LIMIT misconfiguration
  • Insecure Cookies
  • LDAP Injection
  • ASP Localstart
  • Command Injection
  • Auto-complete password fields
  • Path Transversal
  • Private IP address disclosure
  • Response splitting
  • Remote File Inclusion
  • Session Fixation
  • Source code disclosure
  • SQL Injection

Policy Compliance

Maintaining your information security policies across assets and ensuring consistent compliance is an essential today. Whether you use a vulnerability assessment or scanner, both should help you validate your security policies against industry regulations and your compliance.

A must-have feature for scanners is the ability to define compliance rules based on the regulations and standards your organization may face –  HIPAA, PCI DSS, GLBA, FIECC, SOX, etc. A scanner should allow you to create templates that match up to your policies and any of these various regulations. Also, you should be able to monitor any configurations changes, patches, vulnerabilities, hardening and the policy compliance of IT assets, devices, and applications.

Action Plans & Vulnerability Management

After your organization has identified vulnerabilities from the assessment or scanner, it’s time to put together an action plan for these issues. A vulnerability assessment or scan could bring back hundreds or even thousands of different vulnerabilities. This is often a big headache for organizations that DIY a vulnerability scan using open source tools. You need to be able to sort vulnerabilities, prioritize by risk (high, medium-high, medium-low, and low), and delegate tasks to your security team for quick remediation.

Within the vulnerability assessment, your provider should offer a thorough timeline or roadmap to tackle the vulnerabilities with the biggest risk. The vulnerability management phase can be a tedious task for security teams. With prioritization and delegation, your security team can quickly address these issues.

A must-have feature for a scanner is to search for vulnerabilities and assign a risk score continuously. This way, your security team can respond to these potential threats in real-time. You might also consider using a managed security services provider that can offer managed vulnerability scans and compliance.

Overall Risk Score & Vulnerability Reporting

With vulnerability assessments and scans, you will want to leverage a dashboard that highlights the risk scores (high, medium-high, medium-low, and low) for all vulnerabilities but also provide your organization with an overall risk score based on the volume and severity of vulnerabilities found within your network, applications, and IT assets and devices.

Your assessment and scanner reporting should include the following:

  • Overall system summary
  • Overall scan summary
  • Total number of scans
  • Total number of vulnerabilities
  • Top 10 vulnerabilities
  • Security issues by asset
  • Security issues by vulnerability
  • Indicators of Compromise
  • Major security changes needed
  • Recommendations for remediation
  • Effectiveness of remediation

A centralized dashboard or custom report will provide you valuable insights. You can take these insights and work to continuously improve your security posture across a defined timeline or the roadmap outlined by your provider. Moreover, you can use your overall risk score to track the effectiveness of your security team in remediating security issues and vulnerabilities across time and report this to your Leadership Team. Your Leadership Team would be happy to know that the security posture of the organization has improved significantly over time.

Vulnerability assessments and scans can bring light to many areas of improvement within your security program. When evaluating an assessment provider or scan, keep these key features in mind. If you’re interested in a Vulnerability and Compliance Management solution that covers all these bases, try out CIPHER’s proprietary VCM solution in a complimentary 30-day trial below.

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