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Let’s Talk Vulnerability Scans

06.17.21

Protecting an organization against a cyberattack has never seemed more daunting. automated tools such as vulnerability scanners can help identify security weaknesses that, when addressed, can strengthen a company's security.

Let’s Talk Vulnerability Scans

June 17, 2021


Protecting an organization against a cyberattack has never seemed more daunting. Forrester's 2020 study found that companies average over 11,000 security alerts per day. A little over 15% received more than 100,000 daily alerts. As a result, security teams cannot address all these alerts, with close to 28% never being addressed.

Only 13% of businesses are leveraging automation to help reduce the burden placed on IT security teams. Yet, automated tools such as vulnerability scanners can help identify security weaknesses that, when addressed, can strengthen a company's security. 

Vulnerability Scanners 

Vulnerability scanners are automated tools that identify security weaknesses in a computerized network. Depending on the scanner, different areas of a network are tested, such as:

  • Ports. Looks for open or misconfigured ports.

  • Network. Scans the environment for weaknesses, including information on users and groups

  • Web. Scans for potential vulnerabilities within a web application or infrastructure

With the increase in cloud computing, vulnerability scans of cloud resources should be included.

Scans can be external or internal. External scans look for potential weakness from the view of someone attacking the system from outside the network. Internal scans operate as a trusted user and are looking for vulnerabilities from inside the network that allows a hacker to move within the system.

How Vulnerability Scanners Work

Vulnerability scanners are designed to check for vulnerabilities using a variety of technologies. These tools can be command-line scripts or integrated dashboards with graphical displays, but all tools should provide a list of vulnerabilities. The list can be used to assign priorities for mitigating risks.

Scanners run a series of if-then tests. They look for potential weaknesses and then flag any vulnerabilities that were found. The results are provided with a common vulnerability and exposure number (CVE). This number ties to a national vulnerability database that provides additional information on the weaknesses and their potential risks. When third-party suppliers perform tests, they can provide additional insight based on the CVE.

Map the Network

Before starting a scan, conduct a system-wide inventory and map the network to determine the types of scans that will be required. From the mapping, IT teams should establish priorities based on the associated risk and the digital assets that could be impacted. If industry-standard compliance requires vulnerability scans, these guidelines should be included in the list of critical areas to be addressed.

Run External Scans

For regulated industries such as financial services, IT departments should consider using a third party to run external scans. Some regulations require that an outside provider run scans. Whether a company or an outside provider conducts the scan, running the test is only the first step in addressing system weaknesses. Companies must then develop and implement processes to mitigate the threats. Rescanning is required to determine if the vulnerabilities have been addressed.

Run Internal Scans

Internal scans are often performed in-house; however, the individual running the scan should not be the same person responsible for remediation. Separation of responsibilities is the best way to ensure an objective assessment. Part of an internal scan is configuring the tool to deliver the best possible results, which may require outside assistance from the company supplying the scanner or from a trained third party. As with external scanning, the process is not complete until the threats are eliminated, and a clean scan is achieved.

How to Use Vulnerability Scanners

Vulnerability scans are a snapshot of a company's network security. They should be scheduled scans throughout the year to ensure protection against a changing security landscape. In addition to regularly scheduled internal and external scans, rescanning should be performed whenever a significant change has been made to the operating environment. Don't wait until a scheduled scan to verify network security. 

Network Changes

Significant network changes that require rescanning include:

Adding new system components such as servers 
Upgrading system components
Reconfiguring the network
Modifying firewall rules
Changing or upgrading APIs
Implementing encryption changes


These are just of few of the changes that should trigger a rescan of a network.

Scheduled Scans

Vulnerability scanning should be part of a planned process for identifying and mitigating security weaknesses that could lead to a system compromise. After a scan is complete, prioritize the areas needing to be addressed according to risk and resource availability. For help establishing a vulnerability scanning program, contact Synergy Infosec and or sign up for a free trial to access our easy-to-use dashboard with all the tools and scanners to help you find the vulnerabilities of your system. 



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