Vulnerability assessment is that the process of identifying, classifying, and prioritizing security vulnerabilities in IT infrastructure. A comprehensive vulnerability assessment evaluates whether an IT system is exposed to known vulnerabilities, assigns severity levels to identified vulnerabilities, and recommends remediation or mitigation steps where required.
Vulnerability assessments are a standard security procedure as they supply an in depth view of the safety risks a corporation may face, enabling them to raised protect their information technology and sensitive data from cyber threats.
Vulnerabilities are often found in applications managed by third-party vendors or internally made software, and lots of flaws are easily fixed once identified.
Why is vulnerability assessment important?
Vulnerability assessment is vital because it provides you with information about the safety weaknesses in your environment and provides direction on the way to remediate or mitigate the problems before they will be exploited.
This process provides you with a far better understanding of your IT infrastructure, security flaws and overall risk, which greatly improves information security and application security standards while reducing the likelihood that a cybercriminal will gain unauthorized access to your organization.
What are the various sorts of vulnerability assessment?
There are several sorts of vulnerability assessment:
- Network-based assessment: wont to identify possible network security issues and may detect vulnerable systems on wired and wireless networks.
- Host-based assessment: wont to locate and identify vulnerabilities in servers, workstations, and other network hosts. This scan typically examines open ports and services and may offer visibility into the configuration settings and patch management of scanned systems.
Wireless network assessment: wont to scan Wi-Fi networks and attack vectors within the wireless network infrastructure. It can validate your company’s network is securely configured to stop unauthorized access and may also identify rogue access points.
- Application assessment: The identification of security vulnerabilities in web applications and their ASCII text file by using automated vulnerability scanning tools on the front-end or static/dynamic analysis of ASCII text file .
- Database assessment: The assessment of databases or big data systems for vulnerabilities and misconfiguration, identifying rogue databases or insecure dev/test environments, and classifying sensitive data to enhance data security.
What is the safety vulnerability assessment process?
The security vulnerability process consists of 5 steps:
- Vulnerability identification: Analyzing network scans, pen test results, firewall logs, and vulnerability scan results to seek out anomalies that suggest a cyber attack could cash in of a vulnerability.
- Vulnerability analysis: Decide whether the identified vulnerability might be exploited and classify the severity of the exploit to know the extent of security risk.
- Risk assessment: Assess which vulnerabilities are going to be mitigated or remediated first supported their wormability and other risks.
Remediation: Update affected software or hardware where possible.
- Mitigation: choose countermeasures and the way to live their effectiveness within the event that a patch isn’t available.
- The vulnerability assessment process may be a critical component of vulnerability management and IT risk management lifecycles and must be done on a daily basis to be effective.
For more information, see our guide vulnerability management.
1. Vulnerability identification
Vulnerability identification is that the process of discovering and making an entire list of vulnerabilities in your IT infrastructure.
This is generally achieved through a mixture of automated vulnerability scanning and manual penetration testing.
A vulnerability scanner can assess computers, networks or web applications for known vulnerabilities like those listed on the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE).
Vulnerability testing are often run via authenticated or unauthenticated scans:
Authenticated scans: Allow vulnerability scanners access networked resources using remote administrative protocols and authenticate using provided system credentials. The advantage of authenticated scans is that they supply access to low-level data like specific services, configuration details and accurate information about operating systems, installed software, configuration issues, access control, security controls and patch management.
Unauthenticated scans: Don’t provide access to networked resources, which may end in false positives and unreliable information about operating systems and installed software. this sort of scan is usually employed by cyber attackers and IT security analysts to undertake and determine the safety posture of externally facing assets, third-party vendors and to seek out possible data leaks.
Like any security testing, vulnerability scanning isn’t perfect which is why other techniques like penetration testing are used. Penetration testing is that the practice of testing an information technology asset to seek out exploitable vulnerabilities and may be automated with software or performed manually.
Whether run automatically or performed manually by a security team, pen testing can find security flaws and possible attack vectors that are missed by vulnerability scanning tools. It also can be wont to test on-premise security controls, adherence to information security policies, employees susceptibility to social engineering attacks like phishing or spear phishing, also on test incident response plans.
2. Vulnerability analysis
After vulnerabilities are identified, you would like to spot which components are liable for each vulnerability, and therefore the root explanation for the safety weaknesses. for instance , the basis explanation for the vulnerability might be an outdated version of an open-source library.
In this situation, there’s a transparent path to remediation, upgrading the library. However, there’s not always an easy solution, which is why organizations often got to run each vulnerability through a security assessment process that classifies the severity of the vulnerability, identifies possible solutions, and decides whether to simply accept , remediate or mitigate the identified risk supported the organization’s risk management strategy.
3. Risk assessment
The objective of this step is to prioritize vulnerabilities. This often involves employing a vulnerability assessment tool that assigns a rank or severity to every vulnerability.
For example, UpGuard BreachSight, an attack surface management tool, uses the Common Vulnerability rating system (CVSS) scores to assign a numerical score from 0 to 10 supported the principal characteristics and severity of the vulnerability.
With that said, any good vulnerability assessment report will absorb additional factors such as:
- What system is affected
- What sensitive data is stored on the system, e.g. personally identifiable information (PII) or protected health information (PHI)
- What business functions believe the system
- The ease of attack or compromise
- The business impact of a successful exploit
- Whether the vulnerability is accessible from the web or requires physical access
- How old the vulnerability is
- Any regulatory requirement your organization has, e.g. CCPA, FISMA, GLBA, PIPEDA, LGPD, 23 NYCRR 500, FIPA, PCI DSS, HIPAA, or the SHIELD Act
- The cost of a knowledge breach in your industry
Remediation involves fixing any security issues that were deemed unacceptable within the risk assessment process. this is often typically a joint effort between development, operations, compliance, risk management, and security teams, who choose an economical path to remediate each vulnerability.
Many vulnerability management systems will provide recommended remediation techniques for common vulnerabilities, which may be as simple as installing readily-available security patches or as complex as replacing hardware.
Specific remediation steps will vary on the vulnerability but often include:
- Updating operational procedures
- Developing a strong configuration management process
- Patching software
- 5. Mitigation
- Not every vulnerability are often remediated, which is where mitigation comes in. Mitigation is concentrated on reducing the likelihood that a vulnerability are often exploited or reducing the impact of the exploit.
Specific mitigation steps will vary greatly, counting on your risk tolerance and budget but often include:
- Introducing new security controls
- Replacing hardware or software
- Vendor risk management
- Attack surface management
- Continuous security monitoring
- What potential threats are often prevented by vulnerability assessment?
- Examples of cyber attacks which will be prevented by vulnerability assessment include:
Privilege escalation attacks: Privilege escalation is that the exploitation of a software error , vulnerability, design flaw, configuration oversight or access control in an OS or application to realize unauthorized access to resources that are usually restricted from the appliance or user. Read more about privilege escalation here.
SQL injections: SQL injection attacks happen when invalidated or untrusted data is shipped to a code interpreter through form input or another data submission field during a web application. Successful injection attacks may result in data leaks, data corruption, data breaches, loss of accountability, and denial of access.
XSS attacks: Cross-site scripting (XSS) may be a sort of security vulnerability typically found in web applications. XSS enables attackers to inject client-side scripts into sites viewed by other users and should be wont to bypass access control, like the same-origin policy. The impact of XSS can range from alittle nuisance to significant cybersecurity risk, counting on the sensitivity of knowledge handled by the vulnerable website, and therefore the nature of any mitigations implemented. Read more about cross-site scripting here.
Insecure defaults: it’s normal for software and hardware to ship with insecure settings, like easily guessable passwords, to form onboarding easier. While this is often good from a usability perspective, many of us leave these default configurations intact which may leave them exposed.
What are the various sorts of vulnerability assessment tools?
Vulnerability assessment tools are designed to automatically scan for brand spanking new and existing threats in your IT infrastructure. sorts of tools include:
Web application scanners that map the attack surface and simulate know attack vectors
Protocol scanners that look for vulnerable protocols, ports, and other services
Network scanners that help visualize networks and find out network vulnerabilities like stray IP addresses, spoofed packets, and suspicious packet generation
It’s best practice to schedule regular, automated scans of all infrastructure and use the results as a part of your ongoing vulnerability assessment process.
UpGuard BreachSight will automatically scan your attack surface daily for vulnerabilities.
What’s the difference between vulnerability assessment and penetration testing?
As noted above, a vulnerability assessment often includes penetration testing to spot vulnerabilities which may not be detected by automated scanning. This process is usually mentioned as vulnerability assessment/penetration testing (VAPT).
With that said, penetration testing alone isn’t sufficient as an entire vulnerability assessment. Vulnerability assessment aims to uncover vulnerabilities and recommend the acceptable mitigation or remediation steps to scale back or remove the identified risk.
In contrast, penetration testing involves identifying vulnerabilities and attempting to take advantage of them to attack a system, cause a knowledge breach, or expose sensitive data. While this will be administered as a part of a vulnerability assessment, the first aim of penetration testing is to see whether a vulnerability exists that’s exploitable.