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Companies face a broad range of cybersecurity threats with becoming more dependent on the internet, remote access, and overall technology. In order to keep their essential data and applications secure, they must be able to identify potential vulnerabilities that cybercriminals could exploit on behalf of their objectives. By using a combination of vulnerability testing tools and scanning techniques, cybersecurity experts can help them identify and shore up security gaps and weaknesses.
How a Vulnerability Scan Works
Organizations use vulnerability testing tools to assess their network environments and applications for potential risks and security gaps. While there are many different types of vulnerability scanners available, most of them work in a similar fashion by gathering information about the network in question and then comparing those details to a database of known cybersecurity vulnerabilities. These weaknesses could include issues like unpatched vulnerability and misconfigurations.
The typical assessment consists of four steps regardless of what vulnerability testing tools are deployed:
1. Planning: The scope of the assessment is established to determine which systems will be tested and under what conditions.
2. Scanning: The scan is performed using the chosen vulnerability testing tools to identify potential security gaps. Scans can be conducted manually or may be automated depending upon the scope.
3. Analysis: Any vulnerabilities identified during the scan are evaluated for risk and cataloged based on their severity and threat level. The analysis will also provide suggestions for addressing these security gaps.
4. Remediation: The recommended actions are taken to eliminate vulnerabilities or mitigate their potential impact.
5. Reporting: Report and document your remediate thresholds and security improvement.
Vulnerability Testing vs Penetration Testing
Although they often complement one another, vulnerability tests and penetration tests are very different types of assessments. The primary differences include exploitation of findings and assessment security defenses. A vulnerability assessment is much more comprehensive in that it evaluates the entire network to identify potential risks. Since the scope of the test is so broad, many vulnerability testing tools leverage automation in order to manage so many assets. Critically, vulnerability assessments only identify potential vulnerabilities. It doesn’t actually exploit those findings to evaluate their potential impact and defensive capabilities.
Penetration testing, on the other hand, is extremely focused. Typically performed with manual and automated tasks, a penetration test sets out to directly exploit a known vulnerability or misconfiguration. As an example, SMB signing could be dangerous within an Active Directory environment. This finding may not be classified as a higher risk by security products but I penetration tester will be able to leverage this heavily. They require a great deal of skill and expertise and can be very time-consuming. The benefit of penetration testing, however, is that it provides a detailed analysis of how a specific vulnerability could affect a business. Some vulnerability assessment and penetration testing (VAPT) tools are designed to work in concert with one another so that potential security gaps revealed by one can be analyzed by the other. Most VAPT tools don’t automatically perform the penetration test, but simply flag it for future testing.
Vulnerability Testing Tools and Techniques
There are many different vulnerability testing tools available, but the type of software deployed is generally less important than the scanning technique utilized.
External Vulnerability Scans
The purpose of an external vulnerability scan is to assess the perimeter of the network and evaluate how exposed it may be to attack from an outside source. Good external vulnerability testing tools will identify gaps in the network’s surface security that hackers could exploit to gain entry into the network. They are especially valuable because many cyber attackers utilize similar scans to locate easy targets.
Internal Vulnerability Scans
Perimeter security is only part of a good cybersecurity architecture. An internal vulnerability scan assesses security controls within the network environment itself to determine how easily hackers can move laterally between systems and servers. These scans are important because they help determine how much damage a security incident could inflict upon a company.
Environmental Vulnerability Scans
A more comprehensive approach to cybersecurity, an environmental scan looks at operational technology implemented across an entire organization. Scanning doesn’t begin and end with the network and its associated operating system applications, but also extends to include internet of things (IoT) and mobile devices and connected cloud services.
Authenticated Vulnerability Scans
Also known as a credentialed scan, these scans utilize authorized login credentials to collect detailed information about the network and the machines connected to it. Since the system recognizes the technician performing the scan as a trusted user, the scan reveals potential vulnerabilities that anyone with access credentials might come across. It also gives an idea of what a hacker could accomplish if they managed to acquire those credentials through phishing scams or brute force attacks.
Unauthenticated Vulnerability Scans
A non-credentialed scan probes the network in the same way a hacker might search for potential access points. This approach consists of sending packets to the open ports within the network to determine what operating systems and applications might be in use. Armed with this information, the hacker can then cross-reference that information in databases that compile known vulnerabilities for those configurations. An unauthenticated scan can also identify potential weak points like open file shares.
Web Application Vulnerability Scans
Most network vulnerability tools focus on the network server and the operating system managing it. A web application scan, however, looks for vulnerabilities in the actual code of the web-based applications. Rather than referencing databases of known operating system and network vulnerabilities, web application scans look for common coding flaws like command injections or cross-site scripting.
Vulnerability Testing Tools for Applications
When it comes to application testing, there are two scanning tools that cybersecurity experts use to identify potential vulnerabilities.
Static Application Security Testing Tools
Also known as white box testing, strategic application security testing (SAST) tools are typically used early in the development of an application’s lifecycle. They don’t require a completed, deployed application and are actually able to analyze source code for vulnerabilities without having to execute the application. Unfortunately, as the name implies, they can only be used for static code, which prevents them from discovering vulnerabilities that develop while the application is actually running.
Dynamic Application Security Testing Tools
Also known as black box testing, dynamic application security testing (DAST) tools are deployed to evaluate applications that are running in real time. They scan for vulnerabilities from the outside in, which replicates the approach utilized by hackers trying to access live applications. Since DAST scans require an executable application, they are deployed after the development cycle is complete.
Compuquip Combines Experience with the Best Vulnerability Testing Tools
Although there are many vulnerability testing tools to choose from, Compuquip Cybersecurity has long advocated for the importance of experience and expertise when it comes to network security evaluations. That’s why we’ve built a knowledgeable team dedicated to continuous learning to help our clients stay on top of the latest security threats and shore up known vulnerabilities.
Whether you need a vulnerability assessment, penetration testing for known exploits, or guidance from our virtual CISO service, we have the cybersecurity solutions you need to keep your organization secure. Contact one of our experts today to tell us all about your business’s unique cybersecurity requirements.
Beat Cyber Criminals
Stay ahead of threats and attacks by implementing a vulnerability management program using this checklist.