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VULNERABILITY SCANNING – and why it’s important?

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Donovan Coetzer

27 July 2021

Vulnerability scanning and what that really means?

 

Vulnerability assessment is an important element of a comprehensive multi-layered system and network security plan. Vulnerability assessment scanners can simulate the actions of hackers and attackers and check system settings to help administrator’s pinpoint security weaknesses before they are discovered – and exploited – by outsiders. Such tools can remotely assess the secure status of your network (or the lack thereof) and generate reports documenting scan results that you can use as a guide to fixing the identified problems.

 

There are two basic methods of dealing with security breaches:

 

• The reactive method is passive;

 

When a breach occurs, you respond to it, doing damage control at the same time you track down how the intruder or attacker got in and cut off that means of access so it won’t happen again.

 

• The proactive method is active;

 

instead of waiting for the hackers to show you where you’re vulnerable, you put on your own hacker hat – in relation to your own network – and set out to find the vulnerabilities yourself, before anyone else discovers and exploits them.

 

The best security strategy employs both reactive and proactive mechanisms. Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) such as Anti-Virus and Anti-Spam, for example, are reactive in that they detect suspicious network activity so that you can respond to it appropriately. Vulnerability assessment scanning is a proactive tool that gives you the power to anticipate vulnerabilities and keep out attackers, instead of spending much more time and money responding to attack after attack.

 

The goal of proactive security is to prevent attacks before they happen, thus decreasing the load on reactive mechanisms. Being proactive is more cost effective and usually easier; the difference can be illustrated by contrasting the time and cost required to clean up after vandals break into your home or office with the effort and money required to simply install better locks that will keep them out.

 

The number of security breaches – and attempted breaches – has steadily increased over the years. Even as operating system vendors and applications vendors scramble to patch the holes in their products, tech-savvy intruders uncover new exploitable flaws. In today’s environment, where persistent connectivity is a business necessity and accessibility of resources can make the difference between business success or failure, no piece of complex software can be 100% secure out of the box.

Vulnerability Scanning report

What does a security breach really mean to your company?

 

That depends. Depending on the particular exploit, the motivations of the attacker, what data you have on the network, and the role the network plays in your business, results of a breach can range from mere inconvenience to the loss of millions of dollars.

 

Direct financial loss:

 

According to the CSI report, the greatest monetary losses reported by companies were due to theft of proprietary information. Most organizations have data stored on their networks that is confidential and crucial to how they make their products or provide their services.

 

Cost of downtime in productivity:

 

CSI survey respondents reported that the second greatest losses were due to denial of service (DoS) attacks. The lost productivity and lost sales during network “downtime” can add up to thousands or even millions of dollars.

 

Lost future business: the “ripple effect”:

 

A less obvious ramification when network connectivity is lost is the loss of confidence from customers and partners. This can have a financial impact extending far beyond the actual time period during which the network is out of use.

 

Litigation/legal factors:

 

Many industries and fields today fall under government regulations that require compliance with specific rules regarding the protection of digital information.

 

While anyone can run a vulnerability scan, it’s the interpretation of the results that’s key.  The quality of the report generated varies from tool to tool, and the quality of scanning tools themselves vary, so it’s critical to have a skilled IT professional run the vulnerability scan, review the results, and prioritize and perform remediation work.

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