Vulnerability assessments can help identify vulnerabilities attackers use to breach systems and applications. Organizations, especially larger enterprises and those facing ongoing cyberattacks benefit from regular vulnerability assessment scans. A security team performs a vulnerability assessment using automated network security scanning tools to uncover weaknesses in hardware and software. The process can be broken down into four high-level steps:
It involves locating and identifying vulnerabilities in your computer systems, digital assets, and network infrastructure. Vulnerability scanners, which can be run manually or automatically, find security flaws and weaknesses in hardware, software, and operating systems. It can also help you discover attack vectors in your wireless network infrastructure by identifying rogue access points and vulnerable Wi-Fi routers. After scanning, you can use your vulnerability assessment tool to prioritize the problems and determine a cost-effective path to repair them. It can be as simple as a product update or as involved as introducing new security procedures and tools. Still, it must always include an evaluation of the potential business impact of each problem to ensure that the most pressing flaws are addressed first.
This process phase is critical to understanding your security posture, as it helps you understand your organization’s threats and risks. But it’s important to remember that this is only one part of the overall risk-based vulnerability management machine and that your ultimate goal should be to control overall risk by deploying a comprehensive, ongoing program.
Fortinet’s explanation of vulnerability assessments identifies and analyzes vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit to carry out cyber attacks. This process helps protect organizations from threats by closing security gaps before they can be used. After a vulnerability scan and analysis are completed, the next step in the vulnerability assessment process is remediation. It includes identifying and prioritizing vulnerabilities, creating a vulnerability assessment report, and deciding on remediation techniques based on the risk level of each exposure. It often involves a collaboration between the DevSecOps, cybersecurity, and compliance teams.
It can include putting systems into a patch management system that regularly updates all operating systems and third-party software. It is important because most cyberattacks occur when a vulnerability is left unpatched. It also includes putting other defensive strategies in place to prevent attacks from bypassing your other security measures, like antivirus software and firewalls.
A vulnerability assessment should also identify the root cause of each discovered weakness and determine how to fix it. It could be as simple as installing a patch or requiring more in-depth fixes, such as replacing hardware. It will depend on each organization’s unique business needs and the sophistication of its security team. It is also when your security partner can help by providing professional services tailored to each organization’s needs.
Once the vulnerabilities are found, they must be analyzed to determine the potential impact and risk. It is often done by security analysts who scan systems and applications with specialized internet vulnerability assessment tools or test them manually. They also use various information sources like vendor vulnerability announcements, threat intelligence feeds, and asset management systems to identify vulnerabilities. This analysis is a critical step in the process because it allows organizations to discover vulnerabilities that cybercriminals might exploit to gain access to sensitive data or compromise the integrity of an IT system. It also helps them develop a plan of attack to remedy those issues.
Once all the vulnerabilities have been identified and analyzed, they are prioritized according to their severity, the likelihood of exploitation, and the impact a successful exploitation would have on business operations. It helps to improve an organization’s IT infrastructure and reduce its overall risk of being breached by a cybercriminal. This step can also include penetration testing to identify vulnerabilities in an organization’s personnel, procedures, or processes that may be missed by network and system scans. For example, a wireless scan can look for rogue access points that might be used as points of attack, or a database assessment can reveal SQL injection weaknesses.
On average, a new internet assault happens every 39 seconds. Hackers can exploit any business with digital assets or systems accessible from the internet, whether a multi-billion dollar corporation or a small online store selling their products. It is vital to perform a vulnerability assessment regularly and convey the results via a clear report. The final step in this process is to close any security gaps. It can be done by introducing new cybersecurity measures, tools or procedures; updating configuration and operational changes; or developing and implementing a patch to fix the problem.
A clear and well-structured vulnerability assessment report is essential for conveying the uncovered vulnerabilities to program owners and other stakeholders. The information should explain how a vulnerability affects the organization and make it clear to readers that there are steps they can take to mitigate that risk. It is also helpful to include references or links to additional resources (like Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures glossaries) that can help program owners understand and identify the vulnerabilities they are facing. The key is to be transparent with program owners and keep them updated throughout the process, so they can feel like they are getting value from your work. A professional, easy-to-read report can go a long way to building trust and helping you grow your business by generating repeat clients.