Skip to content

Vulnerability Assessment in Cybersecurity: A Complete Guide (2022)

vulnerability assessment in cybersecurity a complete guide

What is a Vulnerability Assessment?

The process of finding vulnerabilities and risks in computer networks, systems, hardware, applications, and other aspects of the IT ecosystem is known as vulnerability assessment.

Vulnerability assessments give security teams and other stakeholders the data they need to identify and prioritize threats for possible remediation in the right context.

Vulnerability assessments are an important part of the vulnerability management and IT risk management life cycles since they safeguard systems and data against unauthorized access and data breaches.

Vulnerability assessments use vulnerability scanners to find threats and faults in an organization’s IT infrastructure that could lead to vulnerabilities or risk exposure.

Types of Vulnerability Assessments

1. Wireless Assessment

Wireless Assessments look at a variety of environmental, architectural, and configuration factors that have an impact on the security and functionality of your current wireless network.

Examine all of your wireless access points, as well as how they are spread around your surroundings.

Physical installations, such as the mounting and direction of access points, will also be reviewed to reinforce the systems and procedures.

Suppose you hire an outside firm, such as VISTA InfoSec, to conduct your Vulnerability Assessment. In that case, we’ll identify your wireless networks and assess wireless security procedures, such as access management, encryption, and authentication.

We check the setup of wireless access points and wireless cards and the strength of wireless encryption systems. Such tests entail finding known and unknown vulnerabilities and then making mitigation recommendations.

2. Build Assessment

Examining software or application builds for any security or performance problems is known as build assessment. These security flaws could hinder the application’s performance in the future.

Furthermore, hackers and viruses are constantly looking for security flaws that they might exploit to break into the system.

As a result, a Build Vulnerability Assessment facilitates a consistent assessment of your application and system architectures, security system design, and technologies used in your existing setup—this aids in the prevention and management of vulnerability build-ups caused by security or performance problems.

3. Web Application Assessment

This sort of Vulnerability Assessment uses front-end automated scans to identify security vulnerabilities and dynamic and static code analysis.

It’s a vital strategy for web and cloud-based apps. Web Application Scanners focus on the application’s executing code, whereas Network Vulnerability Scanners examine the webserver and its operating systems.

Unlike conventional vulnerability scans that employ a database of known vulnerabilities and misconfigurations, Web application vulnerability scanners are specialized programs that seek typical web problems, including cross-site scripting (XSS), SQL injection, command injection, and path traversal.

They can uncover previously unknown flaws specific to the program being tested. Penetration testers frequently employ this method, also known as Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST).

As part of secure development lifecycles, these are used in conjunction with Static Application Security Testing (SAST) tools, which analyze the actual source code of web apps during the development stage (SDLCs).

As a result, Web Application vulnerability testing is frequently integrated into DevOps and QA processes using interactive application security testing (IAST) solutions that complement SAST and DAST.

Before apps are launched into production or use, this helps detect vulnerabilities and insecure setups.

4. Database Assessments

A database security assessment is a procedure for identifying vulnerabilities or flaws in database systems such as Oracle, Microsoft SQL, MySQL, Postgres, and others.

The database’s susceptibility to a series of known vulnerabilities and attack scenarios is the first factor of risk to assess.

A configuration issue, such as a lack of a database password policy; misconfiguration of critical files, such as listener or audit trail configuration; or a privilege management error, such as public access to a sensitive table, could all be contributing factors to this vulnerability.

5. Host-based Assessment

Host-based Vulnerability Assessment is a method that gives a thorough understanding of potential internal and external risk exposure and the impact on a company.

It is a type of Assessment that involves a thorough examination of systems and networks to uncover security flaws that must be fixed.

The assessor examines the system from a user’s standpoint with access to the system/network from within the organization.

As a result, this vulnerability assessment provides insight into the potential threat of insiders to systems and networks. The evaluation aids in identifying questionable insider activity and detecting attackers who have already gained access to the system.

In this way, the Host-based Assessment adds an extra layer of security to help prevent internal misuse or external intruders from breaching security and gaining access to data.

6. Secure Configuration Assessment

It is critical to assess the hazards within an organization’s systems and network. Secure Configuration Assessment is a procedure for identifying vulnerabilities in your infrastructure’s underlying configuration.

This would include firewall/WAF setups, DLP security matrix sufficiency, router, switch, server, VPN, NAC, mainframe configurations, and so forth.

The evaluation aids in identifying potential security flaws and misconfigurations in systems and applications that a hacker could use to obtain access.

Overall, the evaluation provides an overview of the current security posture, a thorough overview of access restrictions, services, and applications running on important systems, and a list of needed security patches.

7. Mobile Application Assessment

The practice of reviewing mobile applications to verify that they are secure from potential attacks is known as mobile application assessment.

The specialists undertake an audit of your mobile apps and their APIs to evaluate the protection mechanism of your applications against known and prospective threats.

This aids in detecting vulnerabilities and risk exposure in your applications, such as session management, password storage, and Man-in-the-Middle attacks.

For the security assessment, both dynamic and static mobile security testing methods are used to evaluate. It is a test that examines security measures, application behavior, and privacy concerns.

Overall, this vulnerability assessment improves operational efficiency, lowers risk exposure, implements proactive security measures, satisfies necessary compliance requirements, and ensures that applications are safe from prospective threats.

Why Do We Do a Vulnerability Assessment?

There are various advantages to conducting a vulnerability assessment, including:

  • Detecting vulnerabilities before hackers do – VA examines all network components to see if they have any flaws that cybercriminals could exploit to attack the company.

Demonstrating your systems’ security to customers, prospects, and other stakeholders – You must reassure customers who have entrusted you with their data that you can protect their assets.

As you promise such consumers, you can utilize vulnerability assessment as a strategy for strategic competitive advantage.

  • Using an independent VA to evaluate the performance of third-party IT service providers – If you rely on third-party vendors for IT solutions such as email, backup, or system administration, an independent Vulnerability Assessment can assist you in doing so.
  • Complying with industry and regulatory regulations – If you work in a regulated industry, a thorough Vulnerability Assessment can assist you in meeting your obligations.
  • Vulnerability Assessment is also required to get and maintain security certifications such as ISO 27001.
  • Saving time and money – Security breaches can harm a business on numerous levels, resulting in costly constraints and liabilities.
  • Vulnerability Assessment reduces such risks, allowing the company to save time and money by avoiding costly data breach lawsuits.

How Do You Perform Vulnerability Assessments?

Steps:

1. Defining and designing the testing scope – You must first design a process for doing a vulnerability assessment:

  • Determine where your most sensitive information is kept.
  • Discover previously unknown data sources.
  • Determine which servers are responsible for mission-critical applications.
  • Determine which systems and networks should be accessed.
  • Check for misconfigurations in all ports and processes.
  • Create a diagram of your whole IT infrastructure, digital assets, and any devices you’ll be using.

The goal is to make the entire process of Vulnerability Assessment more efficient.

2. Identification of Vulnerability

Conduct a vulnerability scan of your IT infrastructure and compile a comprehensive list of the security dangers lurking beneath the surface.

To complete this phase, perform an automated vulnerability scan and a manual penetration test to confirm findings and reduce false positives.

3. Analysis

A vulnerability scanning program will generate a complete report with various risk levels and scores for vulnerabilities.

To assign a numerical score, most programs employ the CVSS (a common vulnerability scoring system).

A close examination of these scores will first reveal the vulnerabilities you should address. Based on severity, immediacy, potential damage, and risk, you can put them in order.

4. Taking care of the weak spots

After you’ve found and examined the vulnerabilities, the following step is to decide how you’ll address them. This can be accomplished in two ways: remediation and mediation.

The term “remediation” refers to the process of completely repairing a vulnerability to prevent it from being exploited. You can do it by reinstalling security software, updating a product, or doing something more complicated.

The vulnerability remediation process is guided by the priorities established during the analysis phase, and all stakeholders must participate.

When there isn’t a good remedy or patch for a discovered flaw, mitigation might lower the risk of an attack. This option is used to purchase time until a solution can be found.

Additional tools should be deployed as part of the mitigation phase to help reduce cybersecurity threats.

Antivirus software, for example, can be used to detect and eliminate malware and other dangers from your network.

Various measures, such as real-time antivirus scanners, remote firewalls, and predictive artificial intelligence threat detection can be used by reputable products to accomplish this.

Vulnerability Assessment vs. Penetration Testing

Vulnerability assessment (VA) is a highly specialized method of identifying security flaws in a system or programming environment.

VA is entirely a search-and-find method, intending to ensure that none of the provisos are overlooked. It generally entails a method of examination that is carried out both physically and using specific devices.

On the other hand, a penetration test is a proof-of-concept technique for investigating and exploiting vulnerabilities.

This method verifies that the vulnerability exists, as well as demonstrates that exploiting it can cause harm to the application or network.

Because the PT process is usually intrusive and can cause system destruction, much thinking must go into arranging such a test.

A PT often yields proof in the form of a screenshot or log, which supports the finding and can be helpful in the remedial process.

What is a Vulnerability Scan?

Vulnerability scanning examines a computer’s or network’s potential points of exploitation to find security weaknesses.

A vulnerability scan identifies and analyses system flaws in computers, networks, and communications equipment and predicts how successful countermeasures will be.

An organization’s IT department or a security service provider may conduct a scan, maybe as a condition imposed by some authority.

For example, an Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV) is a service provider that has been certified and permitted to scan payment card networks by the Payment Card Industry (PCI). Attackers who are looking for points of entry also utilize vulnerability scanning.

A vulnerability scanner runs from the person assessing the attack surface in question to the endpoint of the scanner.

Details about the targeted attack surface are compared to a database of known security weaknesses in services and ports, packet building irregularities, and potential paths to exploitable programs or scripts.

Each found vulnerability is attempted to be exploited by the scanner program.

Running a vulnerability scan has its own set of hazards because it is inherently intrusive to the running code on the target system. As a result, the scan may result in errors and reboots, lowering productivity.

Authenticated and unauthenticated scans are the two types of vulnerability scanning. In the unauthenticated technique, the tester scans the network like an intruder without trusted network access.

Without logging onto the network, such a scan reveals weaknesses that can be exploited.

In an authorized scan, the tester enters in as a network user, revealing vulnerabilities that a trusted user, or an intruder who has acquired access as a trusted user, can exploit.

According to security consultant Kevin Beaver, conducting both sorts of scans is the ideal strategy: “You just cannot state with reasonable assurance where things stand with security unless you examine your systems from every available perspective.”

List of Vulnerability Assessment Tools

1. Netsparker

Netsparker is an accurate automated scanner that discovers SQL Injection and Cross-Site Scripting vulnerabilities in web applications and APIs.

Netsparker uniquely verifies the detected vulnerabilities, ensuring genuine and not false positives.

As a result, once a scan is finished, you won’t have to spend hours manually confirming the detected vulnerabilities. It’s available as a Windows program as well as an internet service.

2. Acunetix

Acunetix is a web application vulnerability scanner that discovers and reports on over 4500 vulnerabilities, including all SQL Injection and XSS variants.

Because it supports HTML5, JavaScript, and single-page applications, the Acunetix crawler can audit complex, authorized programs.

It bakes in advanced Vulnerability Management features right into its core, prioritizing risks based on data through a consolidated view, single and integrating the scanner’s results into other tools and platforms.[1] 

3. Intruder

The intruder is a proactive vulnerability scanner that scans your system for new weaknesses as soon as they are discovered. It also includes over 10,000 historical security checks, such as WannaCry, Heartbleed, and SQL Injection.

Slack and Jira integrations alert development teams when new issues need to be fixed, and AWS integration allows you to synchronize your IP addresses for scanning.

The Intruder is popular among startups and small organizations since it simplifies vulnerability management for small groups.

4. SolarWinds Network Vulnerability Detection

SolarWinds’ Network Configuration Manager includes Network Vulnerability Detection. Its network automation skills will quickly update network devices’ firmware.

It offers capabilities for network configuration monitoring, management, and protection. The tool will make network compliance easier and more effective.

Network Configuration Manager sends out alerts when the configuration changes. It runs a continuous audit to determine which configurations are causing the device to be non-compliant.

It will enable you to create configuration backups to aid in the monitoring of configuration changes.

5. Apptrana

Indusface WAS is an automated web application vulnerability scanner that finds and reports vulnerabilities based on the OWASP top ten vulnerabilities.

The company is based in Bengaluru, with offices in Vadodara, Mumbai, Delhi, and San Francisco, and over 1100 customers use its services in over 25 countries.

Features

  • Scanning single-page applications with a new generation crawler.
  • Feature of pausing and restarting
  • Additional Instructions In the same dashboard, conduct penetration testing and publish the results.
  • Request for a proof of concept to give proof of a reported vulnerability and prevent false positives.
  • Optional interaction with the Indusface WAF allows virtual patching at the click of a button. False-positive: 0
  • Crawl coverage can be automatically expanded based on real-time traffic data from WAF systems (in case WAF is subscribed and used)
  • Support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to discuss remediation standards and POC.
  • No credit card is necessary for the free trial, including a single full scan.

6. Syxsense

Syxsense has a Vulnerability Scanner in its Syxsense Secure product. Thanks to its security scanning and patch management in one console, Syxsense is the only technology that not only notifies IT and Security teams of what’s wrong but also installs the solution.

You may obtain visibility into OS and third-party vulnerabilities such as faults, blunders, or misconfigurations of components while improving cyber resistance with automated security scans.

Syxsense’s Vulnerability scanner tool saves time, effort, and money by finding and correcting possible dangers before they cause irreversible damage with automatic scans that can be repeated at any frequency.

Features:

  • Port Scanners
  • Windows User Policies
  • SNMP Ports
  • RCP Policies
  • Policy Compliance
  • PCI DSS requirements

7. Breachlock

BreachLock is a security testing platform. It can find faults that can be exploited. It is safe and accessible, thanks to two-factor authentication.

Planned and on-demand scans are both possible with BreachLock. It is a cloud-based solution that works in a variety of cloud environments.

It has a ticket button that can communicate directly with security experts and support workers. With the help of BreachLock, you’ll be able to discover and patch the most recent security problems.

8. Openvas

We can deduce from the name that this utility is free and open source. OpenVAS is a central service that offers tools for vulnerability scanning and vulnerability management.

  • OpenVAS services are available for free and are licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL)
  • OpenVAS is compatible with a variety of operating systems.
  • The Network Vulnerability Tests are regularly updated in the OpenVAS scan engine.
  • The OpenVAS scanner is a comprehensive vulnerability assessment tool for detecting security problems in servers and other network devices.

What is Documenting and Reporting The Vulnerability?

Traditionally, vulnerability documentation has been an ad hoc, producer-specific, and openly nonstandard procedure.

Document creators assemble, consolidate, and produce their versions of vulnerability reports that may or may not be comparable to similar reports from other vendors.

How to write a Vulnerability assessment report.

1. Come up with a catchy title.

2. Write a clear, concise, and direct description.

3. Include a grading system for severity.

4. Describe the impact of the vulnerability by providing clear reproduction steps.

5. Make mitigation suggestions

Remember that the viewers of a vulnerability assessment report are also people. Ensure the report is written in a conversational tone and that any detailed information is referenced.

The report should be prepared so that non-technical readers may understand because the concepts are complex and technical.

Miscommunications will occur, but these errors can be minimized by delivering an effective and detailed report.

The mitigation is stronger when the vulnerability assessment report is kept basic, brief, and straightforward.

Conclusion

Vulnerability assessments should be a must for large and small businesses to ensure that their IT infrastructure is secure.

These thorough assessments not only safeguard businesses from hostile cyber-attacks but also help customers and shareholders trust them.

Because the major goal of doing the Assessment is to reduce the organization’s risk, it must be a regular and timely procedure that anticipates any security threats and maintains the smooth operation of your business.

Effective cybersecurity is crucial in an era when practically all firms are bringing their most vital services online.

As part of this strategy, your nonprofit organization should conduct regular vulnerability assessments to ensure that any external risks are discovered and addressed as soon as possible.