External vs. Internal Vulnerability Scans: What’s the Difference?

An internal scan is conducted within a company’s network to ensure safety inside of the network, while an external scan is completed outside of the company’s network to ensure there are no ways for a hacker to get into the network.

See below to learn all about how internal vulnerability scanning and external vulnerability scanning are different as well as both vital parts of a company’s network security:

External vs. Internal Vulnerability Scans

What Are The Differences Between External And Internal Vulnerability Scans?

External Vulnerability Scans Internal Vulnerability Scans
Outside a company’s network Inside a company’s network
Looks for ways hackers might enter, such as IT assets, applications, and ports Looks for security holes that hackers might take advantage of in systems and servers
More proactive More reactive
Uses external hosts on the network Uses Reconnaissance Network Appliance (RNA) on the network

What Is An External Vulnerability Scan?

An external vulnerability scan helps a company make sure that vulnerabilities outside of their network are laid out and identified. Looking externally will help avoid entry for a cybercriminal, according to a page by Acunetix, a web security company.

With external vulnerability scans, while scanning a company’s site, it is possible to ensure that high-traffic sites can be scanned without affecting their performance and to check for open ports in firewalls or other defense systems.

Businesses can also schedule external vulnerability scans to run as often as they’re needed, based on a company’s schedule.

What Are The Benefits Of External Vulnerability Scanning?

  • Secure Your External Services: External vulnerability scanning assists in verifying the security state of a company’s external services.
  • Weaknesses In External Networks: External vulnerability scans scan weaknesses in external networks that could lead to cybercrime.
  • Shows Most Important Threats: External vulnerability scanning shows the most important external threats and vulnerabilities related to a company’s network.
  • Identifies Weaknesses In Software Or Data: External vulnerability scanning identifies software or data that may show new vulnerabilities or weaknesses in a company.

See more: Simple Guide to Vulnerability Scanning Best Practices

What Is An Internal Vulnerability Scan?

An internal vulnerability scan has full access to the company’s network to show the network vulnerabilities in the network.

Internal vulnerability scans look at the enterprise’s IT infrastructure and security tactics, including employees and third-party vendors that can access the company’s data.

There might be a risk of a “rogue employee” or cybercriminal accessing the network from the inside, said Ryan Cloutier, CISSP, SecurityStudio, a cybersecurity company based in Minnetonka, Minnesota. If this happens, it is best to do an internal vulnerability scan.

Internal scans are helpful when a company needs to have a detailed report of vulnerabilities in their network or to verify patching has happened.

Internal vulnerability scans offer the options of credential and non-credentialed scans.

What Are The Benefits Of Internal Vulnerability Scans?

  • Looks Into Company Actions: Internal vulnerability scans look into the actions of employees to identify vulnerabilities that could affect critical systems, functions, and operations.
  • Improving Access And Privilege Permissions: Internal vulnerability scanning helps improve access permissions and privileges for the company
  • Vulnerability Priority: Internal vulnerability scans identify vulnerabilities in systems and prioritizes vulnerability patching.
  • Internal Insights: Internal vulnerability scans give insights to improve patch and security management processes.
  • Patches Vulnerabilities: Internal vulnerability scans fix vulnerabilities to support needed requirements or security standards.

See more: What is Vulnerability Scanning & Why Should You Do It?

How Often Should You Conduct Internal And External Vulnerability Scans?

Experts say a company should conduct both internal scanning and external vulnerability scanning as often as possible for a business.

For instance, a company that performs internal and external vulnerability scans quarterly or annually may only find “a cybercriminal who only attacks on a quarterly or annual basis,” said Cloutier with SecurityStudio.

“Think about how much can change in your company, and your IT infrastructure, in three months,” says West County Computers in a post.

“If you do not run periodic network vulnerability scans, you could have serious security flaws in your systems for weeks — or months.”

Should You Do An External Or Internal Vulnerability Scan?

Cybersecurity experts recommend doing both internal scans and external scans to help protect a company’s infrastructure as part of their network security strategy.

See more: 13 Best Vulnerability Scanner Tools

Bottom Line

While there are differences between external and internal vulnerability scans, it is recommended to complete both to get the best benefits for your network’s cybersecurity system.

Protecting your business’s data and network is a priority for any organization and internal and external vulnerability scanners can help a company complete that process.

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