With hackers becoming more adept at breaching business networks to extort thousands, or even billions, of dollars, the importance of performing vulnerability assessments regularly has become greater than ever.
Routine vulnerability assessments will help identify and address blind spots in your security, preventing what could otherwise be an embarrassing data breach or devastating cyber attack.
A vulnerability assessment, or vulnerability scanning, can identify weaknesses in your network. Through routine vulnerability assessments, you will mitigate your risk of serious cyber threats and potentially save your company thousands of dollars.
But what is a cyber security vulnerability assessment?
What Is a Vulnerability Assessment?
Vulnerability assessments are used to evaluate the state of your IT stack to identify vulnerabilities, or gaps, that could be exploited by those trying to break into your critical systems. Threat levels can be assigned to identify security vulnerabilities for order of remediation.
Preventable threats found via vulnerability assessments include:
- Default settings that cause software vulnerabilities
- Errors in firewall configurations
- SQL injections
- Cross-site scripting (XSS)
- Broken authentication
- Server-side request forgery (SSRF)
Step-by-Step Vulnerability Assessment Process
Typically, four steps are involved in an effective assessment process, either manually or by automated vulnerability scanners.
- Initial Identification
Analysts will use automated tools or evaluate your entire framework manually to identify security gaps in applications, servers, desktop systems, and other parts of your infrastructure. A comprehensive list of problems will be created for information security engineers to understand and fix security gaps.
Analysis and security teams learn about possible new weaknesses through:
- Vulnerability databases
- Vendor announcements
- Asset management systems
- Threat intelligence feeds
- Vulnerability Analysis
Without understanding the root cause of a weakness, you may experience the same problem multiple times. Part of a vulnerability analysis involves identifying the system components with security gaps and fixing the underlying cause.
It could be something as minor as an old/compromised version of the open-source OS you have running your server. It can help to categorize vulnerabilities that have been identified as:
This can provide clarity when you prepare an action plan for your team (or if you need to disseminate your findings to non-technically-savvy stakeholders).
- Risk Assessment
Without prioritizing your identified vulnerabilities, critical systems could remain open to cyber-attacks while security engineers focus on less critical systems. Your assessment will assign a vulnerability score to each weakness based upon:
- Affected systems
- At-risk data
- Business functions at risk
- How easy it is to attack the weakness
- How severe an attack it may be
- The damage of a potential attack if the vulnerability remains open
After performing security tests, analyzing, and assessing the importance of each weakness, the remaining step is remediation. Your security team will use the gathered data to determine the most effective path to plugging the gaps in your security that leave systems vulnerable.
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Importance of Cyber Security Vulnerability Assessments to Locating Risks and Vulnerabilities
There are many types of security risks that can affect your infrastructure, but a thorough assessment process can identify vulnerabilities in software, operating systems, system hardware, mobile devices, and more.
If left unaddressed, these weaknesses can lead to costly exploitation by cybercriminals.
Fortunately, with an IT vulnerability assessment built into your maintenance schedule, you’ll have a better chance of finding weak spots in your infrastructure and fixing them early. Even if you’re confident in your security infrastructure, a cyber vulnerability assessment can highlight inefficiencies or potential points of attack you may not have considered.
Types of IT Vulnerability Assessments
There are several types of assessments you can perform. Here are some that should be performed regularly:
- Host assessment: Assess your critical services to ensure they’re not vulnerable to attacks.
- Network, wireless assessments, and cloud security: Keep unwanted guests out of your network and cloud environment with assessments of your policies and procedures.
- Database assessment: A scan of your databases for weaknesses, insecure dev/test environments, misconfigurations, and classifying sensitive data across your infrastructure.
- Application scans: Identify gaps in web applications to bolster application security.
How Often Should Security Assessments Be Performed?
Vulnerability management should be an ongoing, recurring feature in your IT plan to be effective. Security teams, operations, and development personnel should work together to perform an assessment at least every 90 days.
Ideally, security assessments should be performed sooner, on a monthly schedule. When it comes to the security of your infrastructure, there is no such thing as performing too many assessments.
Create a risk management schedule, as part of your strategy, that consists of regular analyst, testing, and remediation to secure your infrastructure from possible threats and costly data breaches.
Are Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing the Same?
Often, you’ll hear the terms “vulnerability assessment” and “penetration testing” used interchangeably, but are they the same?
They’re not. While both should be performed on a proactive maintenance schedule to identify and defend against security weaknesses, the two tests have some distinctions.
The main difference between vulnerability assessments and pen testing is the type of tests that are performed. Vulnerability assessments scan your systems for possible problems, whereas pen testers ensure the problems are exploitable.
In the security world, there are entire departments dedicated to ensuring your network is impenetrable. Teams of security engineers, or cybersecurity bounty hunters spend their days trying to break into your systems by finding weak spots before the criminals are able to.
Once found, your security teams will implement new strategies to close the gaps to ensure your data is secure. For most businesses, maintaining that sort of capability in-house is simply not feasible. Instead, they’ll outsource cybersecurity testing and guidance to a professional IT team like Accudata Systems, A Converge Company.
Protecting Your Critical Data With Accudata Systems, A Converge Company
Security is a full-time job, and keeping your critical systems safe from hackers needs to be the number one priority of your business. For over 39 years, we’ve has been providing quality IT support for businesses like yours.
Talk to us about your cybersecurity needs today.