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The Importance of Vulnerability Assessment – Protect Your Business

5 Min. Read

Hackers constantly attempt to infiltrate businesses, steal their valuable data, and disrupt their operations. They do this by exploiting vulnerabilities in company networks and using social engineering tactics to trick employees into giving them access to their company accounts. These disruptions often result in financial losses and unhappy customers, so organizations implement various cybersecurity measures to avoid them. One of these measures is vulnerability assessment.

This article will discuss the importance of vulnerability assessment in business and how we can perform one.

What is Vulnerability Assessment?

This is the proactive and continuous process of finding, assessing, and reporting weaknesses in company computer systems, applications, and network infrastructure. Conducting vulnerability assessment exercises helps organizations anticipate and prevent cyber attacks and data breaches. Cybersecurity experts will use the results from the assessment to create response and disaster recovery plans to mitigate security incidents that might occur.

Vulnerability assessment is not the same as vulnerability management, although some people use them interchangeably. Vulnerability assessment is part of the vulnerability management process; both concepts are crucial to an organization’s cybersecurity efforts.

Cybersecurity experts use third-party security tools to automate vulnerability assessment. The tool will scan the target areas to find all their vulnerabilities. Vulnerability assessment tools use pre-existing databases to detect and report weaknesses.

Importance of Vulnerability Assessment

Businesses that suffer cyber attacks might be forced to shut down because of the severe disruptions they can cause. Hackers target organizations with different malware and might only need one port of entry to carry out their malicious acts. Business owners should use every measure at their disposal to keep these bad actors out. Vulnerability assessment is an essential security measure, and it helps businesses in the following ways:

1. Find gaps in their security framework before cyber attackers do.
2. Create a list of all the devices in their network infrastructure and the vulnerabilities of each device.
3. Determine the level of risk they currently face.
4. Plan adequately and effectively allocate resources to strengthen their security posture.

How to Perform Vulnerability Assessment?

Cybersecurity experts use third-party tools for this exercise. However, some organizations might not have the skilled personnel to run this process effectively, so they outsource it to third-party security vendors. Vulnerability assessment occurs in the following four stages:

How to Perform Vulnerability Assessment?
How to Perform Vulnerability Assessment?

Step 1: Discovery and Information gathering

Firstly, cybersecurity personnel will identify and gather information about all the hardware and software components in an organization’s IT infrastructure. This discovery process involves network scanning to identify hosts and port scanning to identify services and protocols that may have vulnerabilities. The security personnel will also review DNS information and directories to determine the hosts subject to cyber attacks.

// Learn: How To Set Up Cloudflare DNS on your device?

Step 2: Review and Analysis

After the discovery phase, cybersecurity personnel will review all the hardware and software components identified to clearly understand the attack surface cyber attackers can exploit.

This is the stage where cybersecurity personnel will use a detection tool to find the vulnerabilities in the network components. They will generate reports with their findings and use the necessary software to patch, debug, and configure the IT infrastructure components to eliminate vulnerabilities and strengthen the organization’s security posture.

Step 3: Prioritization

The most severe vulnerabilities in your vulnerability scans will need to be identified and addressed first. Critical vulnerabilities are security issues that are already causing damage and/or unwarranted access to the network and should be at the top of your risk prioritization list. These vulnerabilities are the ones that have possible exploits malicious actors could take advantage of in the future.

While all vulnerabilities will need to be addressed at some point, your initial vulnerability scan will return overwhelming numbers of vulnerabilities that you cannot correct all at once. This step is an important move toward making your vulnerability assessment data measurable and actionable.

Step 4: Remediation

Once you’ve identified and prioritized security vulnerabilities on and in your network, and now that you’ve reported these problems and your plans to resolve them, it’s time to act.

You may be able to remediate some of your most critical vulnerabilities with actual patches, but others will require lesser mitigation techniques. Regardless of the solutions you pursue, regularly refer back to your vulnerability assessment to ensure you’re focusing on the right vulnerabilities in the right priority order.

Types of Vulnerability Assessment

There are five different types of vulnerability assessments. Each one is centered on specific components of an organization’s IT infrastructure:

Types of Vulnerability Assessment
Types of Vulnerability Assessment

#1 Network-based assessment

This is done to detect all the security issues and vulnerable systems on a company’s wireless and wired networks.

#2 Host-based assessment

Security personnel perform this assessment to find vulnerabilities in network hosts like servers and workstations. They use software tools to scan open ports and services. The scan allows them to inspect the system configuration settings and carry out patch management if necessary.

#3 Wireless network assessment

Vulnerabilities in an organization’s wireless network infrastructure provide rogue access points that hackers can exploit. Security personnel scan the Wi-Fi networks, routers, and other wireless channels to ensure they are secure.

#4 Application assessment

Companies perform this assessment to detect the vulnerabilities in their applications and their source code. Security personnel use specialized tools to scan the application’s front end and perform static and dynamic analysis on its source code.

#5 Database assessment

Organizations generate large volumes of data, so they have to regularly scan their database and cloud servers to identify vulnerabilities. This will protect them from malicious actors capable of stealing their sensitive data.

Cyberattacks Vulnerability Assessment Can Prevent

Identifying and fixing vulnerabilities protects companies from these kinds of cyber attacks:

SQL injections

Hackers can perform SQL injection attacks on a company by sending untrusted data to a code interpreter by filing a form on their website. They can also do this by uploading malicious files through a data submission field in their web application. This attack leads to data breaches, denial of access, and data leaks.

Privilege escalation

Cyber attackers exploit system design flaws, programming errors, and loose system configurations to gain unauthorized access to an organization’s network. Once in, they will reconfigure their access controls to grant them permission and the privilege to view sensitive information that is restricted from most employees.

Insecure defaults

Some software developers make the default passwords of their devices easily guessable for convenience. If companies forget to change these passwords, a malicious actor can guess them and have access to sensitive information.

XSS attacks

This is also known as cross-site scripting and is a common vulnerability in web applications. During XSS attacks, cyber attackers inject malicious scripts into the code of a website or application that will run a command when an internet user performs a specified action. This can be hovering over a link, loading a particular web page, or any other benign action.

Cross-scripting attacks have many consequences, including stealing a user’s active session cookie, crashing a browser, redirecting a user to a corrupt website, and capturing their keyboard inputs.

Conclusion

Companies that are victims of cyber attacks suffer severe consequences, which range from financial losses to permanent closure. Business owners should embrace vulnerability assessment as it prevents cyber attackers from infiltrating their organizations.

The process is continuous and requires cybersecurity personnel adept at using third-party tools to detect weaknesses in an organization’s IT infrastructure.

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Thank you for reading my blog.

If you have any questions or feedback, please leave a comment.

-Charbel Nemnom-

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About the Author:
Charbel Nemnom
Charbel Nemnom is a Senior Cloud Architect with 21+ years of IT experience. As a Swiss Certified Information Security Manager (ISM), CCSP, CISM, Microsoft MVP, and MCT, he excels in optimizing mission-critical enterprise systems. His extensive practical knowledge spans complex system design, network architecture, business continuity, and cloud security, establishing him as an authoritative and trustworthy expert in the field. Charbel frequently writes about Cloud, Cybersecurity, and IT Certifications.
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