Vulnerability Scanning In Cyber Security

Blockchain admin_scs todayOctober 20, 2021 243 188 5

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INTRODUCTION:

A vulnerability scan is an evaluation of viable security vulnerabilities and risks in systems, internal and external networks, and communication appliances that can be utilized by cybercriminals. It can also be defined as identifying flaws and risks in the software system.It is an automated scheme that scans infrastructure targets such as IP addresses for known vulnerabilities and misconfigurations and risks. The resulting vulnerability assessment report will help us to promptly recognize security weaknesses that need to be sorted out.

There are two main challenges related to vulnerability scanning:

Understanding of what to scan in the system.

Understanding of when to scan in the system.

There are many tools and strategies available to undergo these challenges.

A vulnerability scanner is one of the vulnerability scanning tools that help to identify and create an inventory of all systems connected to a network. For each device that it identifies, it also identifies the operating system that is running and the software installed on it, along with other attributes such as user accounts. After building up an inventory, the vulnerability scanner examines each item in the inventory against one or more databases of known vulnerabilities. The output is a list of all the systems found and identified on the network, focusing on any that have known vulnerabilities and need attention.

TYPES OF VULNERABILITY SCANNING:

Following are the two main types of vulnerability scan on the basis of authenticity:

UNAUTHENTICATED SCANS

They will find weaknesses in your security perimeter. When an unauthenticated scan is done, the performer scans just like a hacker would do, without valid access to the network. The possible attack points can get disclosed which are accessible without signing into the network.

AUTHENTICATED SCANS

They use privileged credentials to go further, finding security weaknesses in your internal networks. Any type the user chooses, vulnerability scanning tools will always use reference databases of known defects, coding bugs and errors, irregularities, configuration errors, and potential routes into corporate networks that can be utilized by attackers. These databases are enhanced continually.

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CONDUCTION OF VULNERABILITY SCANNING:

Using a vulnerability scanner alone is not enough as they don’t go beyond reporting on vulnerabilities that are found. The vulnerabilities have to be prioritized in order of business severity and then added to the remediation queue. We need to keep the following in mind to understand how critical risk is and what would be its impact on the business if exploited and how easy would it be for an attacker to utilize the vulnerability or does an exploit for it exist and is publicly available? Are there any existing security controls that would lessen the danger of the vulnerability being exploited?IT departments accept vulnerability scanning if they have the proficiency and software to do so, or they can call on any third-party security service provider. Service provider’s scans are conducted on targets that the client has the required permissions to have scanned, and users of the service are needed to confirm that they have those permissions. Vulnerability scans are also performed by attackers who scrub the internet trying to find points of entry into systems and networks. Vulnerability scans need to be managed on a regular basis to make sure that new vulnerabilities and risks are recognized as soon as they become common knowledge and that the appropriate alternative measures are taken, such as applying the necessary patches to fix software vulnerabilities. Frequent security scanning can show where exposed services are unpatched and vulnerable to exploitation, allowing IT to take swift alternative action. One should have a vulnerability management program. This should include weekly or monthly scanning, and annual penetration testing, as well as when the changes are made to your systems. This will help recognize the security faults and the extent to which you are open to attack. Don’t forget that the management of security vulnerabilities doesn’t end or stop with only one scan. Scanning should be repeated routinely, it is ideal to do on a quarterly, monthly, or weekly basis, depending on what you trust is best for your company given its level of risk. 

We can either conduct scans in-house, or outsource the task to any third-party organization that does the vulnerability scans on your behalf. Hiring a third party for your company to conduct vulnerability scans may have its request, but your compliance requirements might dictate that you keep cybersecurity activities in-house. Whatever the case may be, it is very important that the person or people that are involved have an intimate and detailed understanding of your systems and all the data and information the company uses.

For small-scale companies that use tools to perform their vulnerability and risk scans, there are many in the market. Some popular and commonly used open-source options include:

OpenVAS

OWASP 

Other leading security tools include:

Netsparker

Tenable Nessus Professional

However, vulnerability scanning should always include four main components that allow the scanners to be as efficient and productive as possible.

STEP 1: PLANNING

In this step, the scanner identifies what type of scanning does the organization requires? Is the scanning an operating system or web server? Is the organization looking for gaps in internal network security or web application security? Where does the sensitive data live, and which systems are the highest priority? Who is going to be involved within the process, and what’s everyone’s role? These are all the main elements of the planning process.

STEP 2: SCANNING

In this step, the scanner implements the vulnerability scanner, whether that happens via a person’s, a tool, or both. Notice that there will be false positives from time to time. Enlist qualified, reputable services which will distinguish between a real threat and a false positive.

STEP 3: ANALYSIS

In this step, the scanner studies the threats that have been identified. Studies where exactly are the vulnerabilities located? Study the cause of the vulnerabilities, and the method to eliminate them. Ranking multiple threats by severity and categorized based on the system of origination.

STEP 4: REMEDIATION

In this step, the scanner starts repairing flaws and eliminating any existing malware or the other unauthenticated components found during the scan.

FIXING AND SIMPLIFYING VULNERABILITY ISSUE:

After running a vulnerability scan, it is important to interpret the results and prioritize what to fix. This is where a skilled IT professional can add value. Vulnerability scanning tools typically provide a report which will mention each scanned system and vulnerabilities found.  Most vulnerability scanners contain a rating for the severity of every risk and steps to compensate for it, which may include links to patches. Smart system administrators mainly focus on fixing the high-severity issues first and then are able to sort out which “vulnerabilities” reported are actually false positives. 

While anyone can run a vulnerability scan, the key is the interpretation of the results. The quality of the report produced varies from tool to tool, and the quality of scanning tools themselves differs, so it’s important to have a skilled and experienced IT professional to get the correct vulnerability scanning tool, run the scan, review the results, and prioritize and perform remediation work.

WHAT DOES A VULNERABILITY SCANNER DO:

A vulnerability scanner starts scanning from the point of the representative who is checking the attack space. A database of the latest and old security threats is held onto and updated every time so that the software can check and compare the information about the attack with the database. The scanner checks for the entry points through which criminals may enter into the programs, services, ports, and the faults in the establishment of the infrastructure. The software tries to get rid of every vulnerable point.

Even though running regular scans is very important, it can still have some risks and vulnerabilities as it is only integrated with the code of the target machine. A scanner is also software, after all, it can create some reboots and errors which could lessen productivity.

HOW VULNERABILITY SCANNING HELPS:

Automated vulnerability scanning tools scan for open ports and determine common services running on those ports. They identify any configuration issues or other vulnerabilities on those services and check whether best practice is being followed, such as the use of TLSv1.2 or higher and strong ciphers. After this, a vulnerability scanning report is generated to show up the items that have been identified. By acting on these findings, a company can enhance its security posture.

TYPES OF VULNERABILITY ASSESSMENT SCANS

There are five types of vulnerability scans:

NETWORK VULNERABILITY SCANS

Network-based vulnerability scanners acknowledge possible network security attacks and vulnerable systems on wired or wireless networks. Network-based scanners locate devices and systems that are unknown and unauthorized on a network and help to make a conclusion if there are unknown perimeter points on the network, like unauthorized remote access servers, or business people’s insecure network connections. Network vulnerability scans are categorized on the basis of their use cases:

INTRUSIVE AND NON-INTRUSIVE METHODS

Intrusive methods endeavor to stop vulnerabilities after they are discovered during scanning and an attack plan is generated. The non-intrusive method recognizes a vulnerability or risk and generates a detailed report for the user to fix it. If a non-intrusive scanning method is used, there is no actual risk of exploitation happening during the whole process. The scanner makes an attempt to develop the possibility of a vulnerability and risk occurring given the conditions.

EXTERNAL VULNERABILITY SCAN

External vulnerability scans target the areas of an IT ecosystem that are disclosed to the web, or that aren’t limited to internal use. These areas include applications, ports, websites, services, networks, and systems that are accessed by external users or clients.

INTERNAL VULNERABILITY SCAN

In these scans, the main target of the software is the internal enterprise network. Once a risk agent makes it through a security hole, the risk agent can leave enterprise systems susceptible to damage. These scans search for and recognize the risks inside the network in order to avoid damage, as well as to allow companies to protect and tighten systems and application security that are not disclosed by external scans.

ENVIRONMENTAL SCAN

Environmental scans are based on the specific environment of an enterprise’s technology operations. These vulnerability scans are limited and are available to expand for multiple technologies, such as IoT devices, websites, cloud-based services, and mobile devices.

HOST BASED SCANS

Host-based vulnerability scanners focus on locating and identifying vulnerabilities in servers, workstations, or other network hosts, and give greater visibility into the configuration settings and patch history of systems that are scanned. There are host-based vulnerability assessment tools that provide information into the potential damage that can be done by insiders and outsiders once some level of access is given or taken on a system.

Most of the tools in host-based scans use manager or agent architecture, where agents perform scans on workstations, servers, and report system conformance to the manager which is based on the security standards.

Some of the commonly used Host-Based Vulnerability Assessment (VA) tools nowadays are: 

Enterprise Security Manager by Symantec, Inc 

Systems Scanner by ISS

SecurityExpressions by Pedestal Software 

Enterprise Configuration Manager by Configuresoft 

Security Manager by NetIQ 

ADVANTAGES OF USING HOST BASED VULNERABILITY ASSESMENT

Identifies risky user activities

Identification of hacker and intrusion recovery

Identification of security checks that are difficult or impossible for a network scanner or are extremely time-consuming.

WIRELESS ROUTER SCANS

Wireless vulnerability scanners focus on identifying rogue access points and also on validating that an organization’s network is securely configured. Also through wireless router scans, we receive information about the WAN connection which is useful when we are scanning a local network and show the model of the router.

Getting this information and data happens in two possible ways:

The program will plan to guess a pair of usernames and passwords to the router from an inventory of ordinary passwords, thereby getting access.

The second possibility will be the vulnerabilities (bugs) used against the router model, allowing to get all the important data and/or bypass the authorization process.

DATABASE SCANS

Database vulnerability scanners focus on identifying the weak points in a database to prevent malicious attacks.

Database scanning tools locate vulnerabilities and risks through the following functions: 

check/verify:

passwords 

default account vulnerabilities 

logon hours violations 

account permissions 

role permissions 

unauthorized object owners 

remote login and servers 

system table permissions 

extended stored procedures 

cross-database ownership chaining 

authentication 

login attacks 

stale login ids 

security of admin accounts 

excessive admin actions 

password aging 

auditing trail 

auditing configuration 

buffer overflows in user name 

buffer overflows in database link 

APPLICATION VULNERABILITY SCANS

Applications vulnerability scanners test and examine websites in order to find known software vulnerabilities, risks, and erroneous configurations in-network or web applications.

VULNERABILITY MANAGEMENT PROGRAM:

Vulnerability Scanning is only victorious at lowering the risk to an organization when used as a segment of a larger VMP.VMP stands for Vulnerability Management Program.VMP programs typically include the following processes:

SYSTEM DISCOVERY

It is the process of identifying assets owned by your own organization.

ASSET CLARIFICATION

It is the process of assigning assets into groups or categories based on common features.

VULNERABILITY DETECTION

It is the process of finding and validating and verifying vulnerabilities and risks in assets.

VULNERABILITY TRIAGE

It is the process of prioritizing vulnerabilities and risks according to technical or business goals and objectives.

VULNERABILITY REMEDIATION

It is the process of advising on and verifying the fixing of identified matters.

VULNERABILITY DISCLOSURE

It is the process of giving a solution for security researchers to disclose relevant risks to you. Please refer to the NCSC’s Vulnerability Disclosure Toolkit for data on making your own vulnerability disclosure process.

ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS WHILE VULNERABILITY SCANNING:

There are many other items to take into consideration when identifying the suitability of vulnerability scanning services to our needs. It is sometimes hard to explain an exact value for what ‘good’ or ‘bad’ looks like in each case, below is the list of important processes that is recommended to ask prospective vendors to give so that the answers may sustain into our own assessments:

RESPONSIVNESS

Can a solution detect a new vulnerability within a given timeframe, once it has been disclosed to the public? This should be no more than a few days for high-severity problems.

COVERAGE

Does the scanner cover all the types of vulnerabilities that are relevant and important to us? For instance, in the case of website scanners, are all problems identified from the OWASP Top 10?

AUTHENTICATION SUPPORT

Does the scanner give support to verified checks? For example, is it possible to sign in to Windows hosts to perform checks that are currently not available? Does it only support local verification using an agent as well as remote verification? Does it have protection in place to help prevent accounts from getting locked out?

ACCURACY

Does the scanner mainly manufacture false positives in which a vulnerability is reported to exist but false negatives in which a vulnerability exists but is not reported to anyone? For example, does it incorrectly recognize old versions of software products or declare that patches you know are available, have not been applied?

RELIABILITY

Is the scanner willingly accessible to task both on an automatic schedule as well as manually on-demand?

SCALABILITY

Does the scanner remain efficient and responsive during periods of high demand, with a cost model based on the essential capacity at any one time?

REPORTING CAPABILITIES

Can reports be customized to suit your specific needs and requirements? Do the reporting abilities give the right information, data, and metrics to give security to the administration teams?

SUPPORT TO OTHER AREAS OF A VMP

Can the output be easily mixed and integrated with the existing products or processes? Or possibly, does the solution give more additional features above and beyond vulnerability and risk detection that would add to our existing VMP, for example, in-built issue tracking?

INTEGRATION WITH CLOUD ENVIORNMENTS

Can the solution cross-examine common cloud givers to automatically find, locate, and scan additional assets hosted in these environments?

SAFETY

Does the vendor guarantee and make a contract that scanning activity will not disrupt or end the availability of the services being targeted? If not, is the solution configurable to remove the more dangerous checks?

IMPORTANCE OF VULNERABILITY SCANNING:

Vulnerability scanning is extensively used across organizations of all sizes. New vulnerabilities are discovered persistently or can be introduced as an output of change in the system. Criminal hackers use automated tools that attempt to recognize and exploit vulnerabilities and risks that are known to them and gain access to unsecured systems, networks, data, and information. Exploiting vulnerabilities and risks with automated tools are simple, cheap, easy to run, indiscriminate, so every Internet-facing company is at risk. Some main advantages of using vulnerability scanning are:

AUTOMATION

Scanning is often run on a schedule, on-demand, or in response to trigger events like a replacement build of a software project or the deployment of a replacement server. This allows an up-to-date view of the vulnerability landscape to be kept.

SPEED

Scanners typically perform hundreds or maybe thousands of checks at a significantly faster pace than would be possible with manual testing.

COST-EFFECTIVNESS

The benefits of speed and automation make it much more economical to perform vulnerability scanning against a target than testing it manually.

SCALIBILITY

Modern cloud-based architectures mean that assistance can increase or decrease their resources to authorize small or large environments to be scanned within similar timeframes.

COMPLIANCE

Many vulnerability scanning solutions include bespoke checks to test compliance with common information security standards or an organization’s own baseline control set.

ACCURACY

By completing bespoke checks to verify the presence of vulnerabilities, scanners can produce much more reliable results than simply referencing information held in Software Asset Management solutions.

All it takes is one risk for an attacker to gain access to your system. This is why applying patches to fix these security vulnerabilities is important. If the user doesn’t update his software, firmware, and operating systems to the latest versions as they are released, the risks in their systems will remain susceptible, leaving the organization exposed.

CONCLUSION:

Vulnerability scanning is an important part of alleviating the organization’s security risks. A vulnerability scanner is used to recognize the points of weakness in the systems. It reduces the attack surface that cybercriminals might exploit, focusing the security efforts on the areas that are most likely to be targeted. Vulnerability scans also help to routinely audit IP address ranges to check if illegal and unauthorized services are being exposed or whether redundant IP addresses are being used.

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