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The reports of businesses—small and large alike—getting hacked every day are alarming. And with the recent high-profile attacks targeting various industries like healthcare, retail, and finance, it’s evident that the threat landscape has evolved. Thus, it’s crucial for any business to improve its cybersecurity strategies to avoid these problems.

Usually, the initial stage of an attack starts by looking for any vulnerability in the network’s security infrastructure hackers can exploit. It can include flaws in the operating system, software or hardware, and even human errors like weak passwords. Threat actors use these vulnerabilities to get access to a network. And as you know, nothing good happens once they infiltrate a network. 

In light of this, it’s crucial to examine your network security from time to time. This process is called vulnerability scanning. And in this blog, we’ll learn more about it and its importance in IT security. Let’s get started.


Understanding Vulnerability Scanning And Its Importance

Vulnerability scanning is the process of identifying security weaknesses in a system or network. It’s a crucial part of network security management because it allows IT professionals to take corrective action, like updates and patches, before the flaws even become major issues. Additionally, a vulnerability scan can uncover misconfigurations that aren’t necessarily fixed by regular patches. It adds another layer of protection from cyberattacks and threats.

However, while vulnerability scans can be done without interrupting your workflow efficiency, they’re not a foolproof defense against all known vulnerabilities. The technology spotting security risks must know what to scan to be effective. In other words, your vulnerability scanner must be optimized to examine particular areas of your organization’s network for known vulnerabilities.


Types of Vulnerability Scanners


Network-Based Scanners 

This type of scanner detects potential security risks and vulnerabilities on both wired and wireless networks. It will search for unknown or unauthorized devices and systems connected to the network and provide information on any unknown external points of access, such as unauthorized remote access and insecure network connections.

Wireless Scanners 

These scanners are used to identify vulnerabilities in wireless networks, such as unencrypted wireless traffic, weak authentication mechanisms, and other common wireless security issues. They look for any unauthorized access points within the network and determine if there are any inconsistencies in the security configurations. 

Host-Based Scanners 

Host-based vulnerability scanners are used to assess the operating systems of workstations, servers, and other network hosts. Besides that, this type of scanner also checks security configurations and patch history to gain insights into potential threats that could arise.

Application-Based Scanners 

This scanner is used for scanning vulnerabilities in apps and websites that can cause security risks. It looks for any input validation issues, weak authentication mechanisms, and other common application vulnerabilities.

Database Scanners

As you know, a database store an entire library of information. When it gets accessed by cybercriminals, all the sensitive data inside it can be manipulated or deleted. Thus, it’s crucial to identify the vulnera3bilities threat actors can exploit—and that’s what a database vulnerability scanner does. It analyzes the database structure, stored procedures, and other components to identify areas of potential weakness. 


Ways To Perform Vulnerability Scans


Internal Scans & External Scans

Internal scans are those carried out from inside the network. They help identify any vulnerabilities within the network and strengthen security in systems restricted only to those with network access. This type of vulnerability scan focuses more on preventing insider threats or attacks from hackers who have already gotten past your perimeter defenses.

On the other hand, external vulnerability scans are conducted from outside the company’s network. They target IT infrastructure exposed to the internet and can be accessed by customers or external users. It includes ports, networks, websites, applications, systems, and services. 


Authenticated & Unauthenticated Scans

An authenticated vulnerability scan or “credentialed vulnerability scan” is a type of scan that requires you to log in with valid credentials. Given that you must use a verified account to perform the scan, you will see a better picture of existing vulnerabilities on a network. Basically, this type of scan offers a more accurate and comprehensive outcome since the scanning system can access areas usually blocked from external access.

Meanwhile, an unauthorized vulnerability scan requires no credentials to perform the scan. And usually, it’s used as the preliminary step because it gives you the same perspective of a potential attacker. But since this type of scan doesn’t provide trusted access to the system, you’ll only have a limited view of the total vulnerability exposure.


Vulnerability Scanning As Part of IT Security


Vulnerability scanning is an essential part of overall IT security. It makes the perfect first step to mitigating the risks—uncovering existing and potential vulnerabilities cyber actors can exploit. Once software developers and cybersecurity personnel discover the flaws in the networks and systems, they can make necessary patches and updates to fix them. But to ensure that all vulnerabilities are remedied, performing another scan once the patches are applied is recommended.

Additionally, since a scan only takes a few minutes to hours to complete, it’s advisable to perform scans routinely. It may be once a month or a quarter, it depends on your cybersecurity strategy. But remember that a single vulnerability can allow an attacker to breach your network. Thus, this should be part of your comprehensive cybersecurity solution to avoid future attacks.

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