Vulnerability Scanning Tools Explained

Posted on September 9, 2021 Knowledgebase

Vulnerability scanning tools are a software solution that provides insight into the security of your systems. They work by identifying gaps in your system’s defenses.

They alert you to them so you can take corrective action. The goal is to help improve your company’s IT security posture and minimize risk. But how do they work?

This article will answer this question and provide information on what these tools identify, how often one should run them, and more!

So whenever you’re ready to start your own vulnerability scan on the idea of vulnerability scanners, keep reading.

What Are Vulnerabilities In IT?

Vulnerabilities in IT are gaps in your company’s security that can be exploited by hackers.

These vulnerabilities could come from:

  • Outdated software
  • Missing patches on a particular system
  • Or any number of other avenues

It is important to understand what these risks look like so you know how to detect them and mitigate the risk they pose.

The goal for vulnerability scanning tools is not just to find out if there are flaws in your systems. Although this is helpful – it also gives insight into why those flaws exist to help improve things in the future.

Vulnerability scanning tools identify three types of vulnerabilities:

  1. Configuration errors
  2. Design weaknesses
  3. Implementation errors

Configuration errors occur when settings don’t match up with corporate standards. Design weakness points to a flaw in the original design that .one never fixed. Implementation errors occur when something is implemented incorrectly.

In addition to understanding why vulnerabilities exist, these tools also help you know what type of action should be taken once they are found.

For instance, one can often correct configuration errors by changing your firewall settings. It can be done by ensuring appropriate firewalls have been put into place.

Implementation errors will require more than just changing an account password. It may involve re-installing the software. It might require clearing out temporary files with specific instructions from IT professionals.

Design weaknesses will call for a much deeper investigation into how the vulnerability came about. This is done to take steps to ensure it does not happen again. The goal is always the same: minimize risk!

Examples of Famous Vulnerabilities

Vulnerability scanning tools can identify three major types of vulnerabilities in your company’s IT. Let’s take a look at an example of each type!

Configuration Error

In 2016, hackers accessed the private information and passwords of 500 million Yahoo users. They did this by using a configuration error that allowed them to create their own cookies on any computer without authorization.

This was caused by a simple setting change that one should have done years before but wasn’t because it “wasn’t seen as urgent.” When security experts were alerted to this problem, they quickly fixed the issue. This was done with no known consequences for those involved.

Design Weakness

The Heartbleed vulnerability is one such design weakness found in OpenSSL software. It was used worldwide since its discovery back in 2014.

This vulnerability came about because a “missing bounds check” allowed hackers to glean the memory space of an application. Thus, they were able to steal sensitive information. The design weakness was then compounded when OpenSSL developers failed to notice this flaw for two years.

Implementation Error

In 2016, Equifax discovered that one had hacked it by exposing 143 million consumer records. This was referred to as the largest data breach ever reported.

The problem with Implementation errors is often not noticed until it has already happened! After investigation, Equifax found that their security protocols were in place.

Still, some vulnerabilities existed due to human error. It’s also because of software malfunctions that lead to these breaches occurring.

For your IT systems to never be breached like Yahoo’s account has been compromised, it is important to understand vulnerabilities. Vulnerability scanning tools are an essential first step in determining how your company can take steps towards improved security for the future.

How Do Vulnerability Scanning Tools Work

A vulnerability scan is designed to discover and report on vulnerabilities in the system. They scan for known risks, then generate a list of items that should be prioritized by the security officer with the most severe first.

Vulnerabilities can exist in many forms, from software flaws to faulty configurations. The effectiveness of vulnerability scanning is dependent upon how complete its database of possible issues is.

The best way to use these tools is with periodic testing rather than only after installing new systems or making significant changes. This will keep an eye out for potential problems before they escalate into major breaches or attacks against your network infrastructure.

In addition, if there’s been a recent update to a piece of critical software, it can help you identify what version you’re running and what the newest release is.

It’s important to remember that these tools are not complete solutions in themselves. They only provide a snapshot of any vulnerabilities at one point in time.

To really stay on top of your system security, it’s recommended to use them as just another defense layer. This is done alongside other steps such as anti-malware scanning or penetration testing.

Furthermore, there are many different types of scanning tools that one can use for different purposes. The most common distinction is whether a tool scans locally or remotely, but it’s possible to use one scanner both ways as needed.

Best Practices for Using Vulnerability Scanners

If you’re considering using a vulnerability scanning tool, as you should, you should also read over these best practices. Without these, you are left to using a scanner that is not optimized for efficiency.

Establish a regular schedule for scanning systems. Update the software to stay up-to-date with any vulnerabilities addressed in patches or updates.

Use multiple tools concurrently – one may find an issue that another does not (or misses). Check for any false positives by double-checking items on the list generated by vulnerability scanners. Always perform penetration tests on your own systems to check for any security holes.

Always back up and monitor the output of vulnerability scanners to ensure a safe system environment. Ensure that all vulnerabilities are addressed, and don’t stop scanning until you have a clean bill of health. Ensure your systems match the configuration settings recommended by vendors.

The final step is to continue updating the database with new threats as they arise. These are just examples of best practices. By no means is this meant to be an exhaustive list.

The Benefits of Using A Vulnerability Scanner

The benefits of using vulnerability scanners are significant, and they’re often one of the first steps in any security audit.

They help identify known vulnerabilities that may not have been discovered yet. This is done by other means such as penetration testing or update checks.

Scanning is a proactive measure rather than waiting for an issue to arise. It provides peace of mind knowing there will be no surprises later on down the line.

Utilizing these tools helps meet compliance requirements from regulatory bodies like HIPAA and PCI DSS (without costly audits).

The benefits can’t be overstated. Scanning your system’s software mitigates risk factors. This is before they become real issues requiring expensive remedies.

It should always be part of a broader solution to ensure complete protection against cyber-attacks.

An always up-to-date vulnerability scanner will help you stay ahead of the latest threats and updates. The right tool may have a false negative or missed issue that another could find. Finding these issues early on ensures higher system security and safety for your organization.

Penetration testing is one way to check if risks are present but not found by scanners. It’s important in any comprehensive system review plan! A good vulnerability scanner will also watch for new vulnerabilities released after installation.

There’s no danger from outdated software versions or configurations. This should be done as part of ongoing maintenance procedures, too.

To make the best use of vulnerability scanners, it’s important to establish a regular system review schedule. In addition, you should keep up with new threats and updates to ensure that your network is secure.

Vulnerabilities Discovered

In conclusion, vulnerability scanners are a way to protect your system against new and evolving threats.

By following these best practices, you can ensure that vulnerabilities are found before they cause damage. Don’t put your organization at risk.

It’s better safe than sorry when it comes to network security. Remember, if it isn’t patched, it’s vulnerable – so make sure all those systems get checked regularly.

And don’t forget: always backup and monitor results from vulnerability scanning tools! If you’re interested in using a vulnerability scanner, get in touch with us to accommodate your needs.

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