Vulnerability Assessment

A vulnerability assessment is the process of defining, identifying, classifying and prioritizing vulnerabilities in computer systems, applications and network infrastructures and providing the organization doing the assessment with the necessary knowledge, awareness and risk background to understand the threats to its environment and react appropriately.

Vulnerability assessments are a crucial component to network security and the risk management process. Internetworks and Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) networks have grown exponentially over the last decade. Along with the advent of this growth, computer vulnerabilities and malicious exploitation have increased. Operating system updates, vulnerability patches, virus databases, and security bulletins are becoming a key resource for any savvy network administrator or network security team.

It is the application of the patches and use of knowledge gained from these resources that actually make the difference between a secure network system and a network used as a backdoor playground for malicious hacker attacks. Starting with a system baseline analysis, routine vulnerability assessments need to be performed and tailored to the needs of the company to maintain a network system at a relatively secure level.

Organizations of any size, or even individuals who face an increased risk of cyberattacks, can benefit from some form of vulnerability assessment, but large enterprises and other types of organizations that are subject to ongoing attacks will benefit most from vulnerability analysis.

Because security vulnerabilities can enable hackers to access IT systems and applications, it is essential for enterprises to identify and fix weaknesses before they can be exploited. A comprehensive vulnerability assessment along with a management program can help companies improve the security of their systems.

Vulnerability assessments depend on discovering different types of system or network vulnerabilities, which means the assessment process includes using a variety of tools, scanners and methodologies to identify vulnerabilities, threats and risks.

Some of the different types of vulnerability assessment scans include the following:
  • Host-based scans are used to locate and identify vulnerabilities in servers, workstations or other network hosts. This type of scan usually examines ports and services that may also be visible to network-based scans, but it offers greater visibility into the configuration settings and patch history of scanned systems.
  • Wireless network scans of an organization’s Wi-Fi networks usually focus on points of attack in the wireless network infrastructure. In addition to identifying rogue access points, a wireless network scan can also validate that a company’s network is securely configured.
  • Network-based scans are used to identify possible network security attacks. This type of scan can also detect vulnerable systems on wired or wireless networks.
  • Application scans can be used to test websites in order to detect known software vulnerabilities and erroneous configurations in network or web applications.
  • Database scans can be used to identify the weak points in a database so as to prevent malicious attacks, such as SQL injection attacks.

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