A vulnerability scanner is software designed to assess infrastructures, networks, and applications for known cyber vulnerabilities companies must face: For instance, there are over 176,000 entries in the U.S. government’s National Vulnerability Database (NVD), according to Market Research Future.
See below to learn all about how companies should be using vulnerability scanning:
What are vulnerability scanning best practices?
Vulnerability scanning experts have similar beliefs on the best practices for vulnerability scanning, and they provided examples for enterprises interested in using the software:
Every company has data that needs to be safe. Vulnerability scanning allows businesses to pick the most vital data to watch closely, detect problems, and save the company from issues.
Having specific “prioritization efforts” can help the security team “maximize their effectiveness,” said Russell Miller, CTO of Secure Access at OPSWAT
There are multiple questions a business should ask before assigning their scanning priorities:
“What do you want to find? Do you want to find all vulnerabilities? Do you want to find only critical vulnerabilities? What is your time budget?” said Matthew Carr, co-founder, Atumcell.
Companies should “maintain and regularly review a risk register for vulnerabilities that cannot be mitigated through patching or compensating controls,” said Dave Martin, VP, managed detection and response, Open Systems.
Once a business finds the data they want to protect the most, the company can feel safer against hackers.
Experts recommend as much scanning as possible. Monitoring constantly can catch errors and problems easier than IT teams.
Ongoing scanning is necessary to help teams catch the high volume of threats they face: There were over 8,000 vulnerabilities published in Q1 of 2022, according to Market Research Future.
“In the past, vulnerability scans might be run quarterly, but newer software supports running them much more frequently, daily, or even more frequently, with feeds of vulnerability information updated daily,” said Miller with OPSWAT.
Perform regular scans “against all devices regularly (at least monthly),” said Carr with Atumcell.“I personally would suggest weekly or daily. … Annual scans are not acceptable,” he said.
Companies need to “embrace continuous scanning or at least scanning with a periodicity that means there will be a short feedback loop from incident, to finding, to response,” said Joel Burleson-Davis, CTO, Chief Technology Officer at SecureLink.
Despite the recommendation of having priorities for data, experts suggest that companies scan every piece of information they have, including software.
“I recommend internal network scanning to detect vulnerabilities in hardware, devices, firmware, and software running in the environment,” said Bryan Hornung, founder and CEO, Xact IT Solutions.
“You also want to run scans on your external IPs and domain names that host services, like your website and other internally used applications and external portals.
“Finally, software-based pen tests, like OWASP or code reviews, if you have custom-built software, to determine if the software you use daily can be exploited.”
Scanning everything can catch vulnerabilities a company didn’t think to check.
Vulnerability scanning is a large part of a company’s security, and some experts recommend also pairing it with other tools.
Companies should use multiple tools for each scan, such as at least two different scanners with different approaches, to get “cross-vendor results and better coverage,” said Carr with Atumcell.
If a user is “attempting to connect from a device with critical vulnerabilities,” companies should also access “critical data or apps” using zero-rust network access (ZTNA) or traditional network access control (NAC), said Miller with OPSWAT.
See more: Why Vulnerability Scanning is Important
Vulnerability Scanning Process
The vulnerability scanning process follows many steps to help a company protect their systems, according to Rapid7.
- Identify vulnerabilities: When the vulnerability scan gathers this data, it can create metrics, reports, and dashboards for the company. The scans can help IT see what patterns may occur.
- Evaluate vulnerabilities: Vulnerability scans will provide different risk ratings and scores, using a common vulnerability scoring system (CVSS). These scores help tell companies which vulnerabilities should be a priority.
- Treat vulnerabilities: Once a vulnerability is a problem, the next step is seeing how to treat that vulnerability. There are different ways to treat vulnerabilities, including: remediation; mitigation, and acceptance. When the vulnerability scan is complete, some experts recommend running another vulnerability scan to confirm the vulnerability is resolved.
- Report vulnerabilities: Noticing the vulnerabilities helps protect data and software. When a vulnerability is reported, IT teams can quickly get the system patched to reduce the vulnerability.
See more: 13 Best Vulnerability Scanner Tools
What types of vulnerability scans are recommended?
There are different types of vulnerability scans based on a company’s needs and their infrastructure.
“As you grow into your vulnerability management process, it is recommended to use tools that take advantage of instrumentation to provide you the most accurate and actionable results and at the same time, lessen the triage burden on your security teams,” said David Lindner, CISO, Contrast Security.
Here are some of the key types of vulnerability scans, according to Balbix:
- Web application and API vulnerability scanning: tests websites and applications for any vulnerabilities
- Network vulnerability scanning
- Internal: searches for vulnerabilities within a business network
- External: searches for vulnerabilities outside of a business network
- Cloud vulnerability scanning: tests for vulnerabilities within a cloud deployment
- Database vulnerability scanning: tests websites to identify weak points in a database