Every organization that connects to the internet, has multiple workstations and servers, processes personal information, and considers cyberattack mitigation a priority must manage potential vulnerabilities. Protecting your network infrastructure requires consistent monitoring to discover and identify vulnerabilities promptly. This blog article covers seven types of vulnerability scanners that will help keep your organization’s information assets secure.
Types of vulnerability scanners
Vulnerability scanning represents a critical component of cybersecurity.
One thing to note about vulnerability scanners is that they only provide snapshots of the potential weaknesses in your cyberdefenses, meaning this is what it looks like “now.” A second caveat for these types of vulnerability scanners is they only examine certain areas of your network infrastructure, which means using multiple vulnerability scanners will often provide a much more comprehensive overview of the vulnerabilities throughout your organization.
The top types of vulnerability scanners are:
- Port Scanner
- Web Application Vulnerability Scanner
- Network Vulnerability Scanner
- Host-based Vulnerability Scanner
- Database Scanners
- Source Code Vulnerability Scanner
- Cloud Vulnerability Scanner
Pending their applicability to your organization and its environment, these scanners should be incorporated into a threat and vulnerability management program.
#1: Port Scanner
Port scanners are used to examine your network servers for open ports by sending connection requests to them. The request responses are monitored to determine whether they are active or not.
Cyber attackers may also use port scanners to find open ports on your network servers to deliver malware and ransomware. If your scans uncover open port vulnerabilities, malicious individuals can likely detect them too. As a result, this is one of the essential elements for vulnerability assessment.
#2: Web Application Vulnerability Scanner
Web applications designed for public access should be checked for vulnerabilities regularly to prevent cyberattacks. With cross-site scripting, these cyberattacks inject malicious data into applications to alter the otherwise trusted data by users who unknowingly execute the attacker’s script.
These scanners should be used to ensure input validation is implemented amongst a broader web application security plan. Additionally, security teams should continue to scan for secure sockets layer (SSL) configurations and reference the results in their efforts to keep them updated.
#3: Network Vulnerability Scanner
Network vulnerability scanning is one of the more critical scans for your organization. First, port scanning will assist the prevention of unauthorized network access. Then, your network scanning and vulnerability assessments should include:
- Brute Force Scan – This scan checks for weak passwords from a default list, dictionary list, or custom list created by system administrators with common, unsecure passwords that employees often use (e.g., birthdays, street or pet names, “password1”).
- Credentialed Scan – This scan relies on authorized accounts to conduct penetration testing and evaluations. An approved user can check for vulnerabilities without impacting network activity or business operations. This scan aims to discover and identify vulnerabilities, not exploit or disrupt the network.
- Exploit Scan – As the name implies, this scan checks for vulnerabilities and exploits them to the point of network disruption. This is done without credentials and best mimics the avenue of attack from cyber threat actors. As a result, exploit scans should be conducted only when their degree of business impact won’t harm ongoing operations and activity.
#4: Host-based Vulnerability Scanner
Host-based vulnerability scanners assess the configurations and operating systems of local machines, servers, and other network hosts to identify any vulnerabilities. Host-based vulnerability scanning generally falls into one of three categories:
- Agent-Server – A piece of software (agent) is installed on an endpoint. The agent performs the vulnerability scan and reports data back to a central server for analysis and mitigation action. Generally, agents collect data in real-time and communicate it back to a central management system. One challenge of agent-server scanning is that the agents are tied to operating systems.
- Agentless – This method requires administrator-credentialed access to centrally initiate vulnerability scans or configure an automated schedule. Agentless scanning does not have the same operating system needs that agents do. This means more network-connected systems and resources can be scanned, but the assessments require consistent network connections and may not be as thorough as with agents.
- Standalone – This scan has no network connections and is the most labor-intense of the host-based vulnerability scans. It requires scanner installation on every host you intend to check. Most organizations—managing hundreds, if not thousands, of endpoints—will not find standalone methods feasible.
Scan data must be collected from all the hosts, compiled, analyzed, and reported on for mitigation action.
#5: Database Scanner
Databases house the information your organization stores, processes, and transmits to provide services and meet your business goals. Scan for database vulnerabilities that allow an attacker to:
- Access and change sensitive data
- Remove sensitive data
- Control data servers
- Pivot from data servers to other areas of the network
Depending on your industry, risk and vulnerability assessment may be required by regulations. For example, the HIPAA Security Rule requires healthcare entities and their business associates to conduct periodic risk assessments.
#6: Source Code Vulnerability Scanner
Source codes are the building blocks for your applications and operating systems. The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) listed insecure design as the fourth on their 2021 Top 10 list, compiling critical threats and vulnerabilities.
Consider using a tool that compares your code to the NIST National Vulnerability Database, which lists publicly known common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVE) in open source code.
#7: Cloud Vulnerability Scanner
Cloud computing has many advantages for businesses of all sizes. Infrastructure scalability is a benefit to leveraging the implementation of SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS. Similar to the access control device on your server room door as physical security, your cloud infrastructure requires the same access control in a virtual setting.
The US National Security Agency (NSA) has identified four categories of cloud vulnerabilities:
- Misconfiguration – Mistakes in technical controls and cloud service settings
- Poor access control – Insufficient authentication processes and policies
- Shared tenancy – Failure of cloud service providers to properly segment multiple organizations’ resources and data
- Supply chain – Malicious activity that compromises hardware or software prior to a cloud service provider acquiring it
Implementing dedicated cloud security is essential to modern businesses. Therefore, your vulnerability assessment program should begin scanning cloud services as soon as possible.
How to Choose Among These Types of Vulnerability Scanners
Among the seven best types of vulnerability scanners, which one would you choose to protect your organization? Most organizations require a combination, as employing multiple vulnerability scanners helps minimize any gaps in assessing your cybersecurity defense program.
Consider these questions for your checklist when selecting vulnerability scanners:
- Do you have personnel dedicated to threat and vulnerability monitoring?
- When was the last time you checked database security?
- Are vulnerability assessments a requirement for your compliance efforts?
- Is your cloud solution protected?
- Are you confident in our ability to discover and identify vulnerabilities on our network from IoT devices?
This is not an exhaustive list, but it should get you thinking about the kinds of vulnerabilities you’ll need to address to keep your information assets secure. Remember, a vulnerability assessment is a snapshot in time.
Your overall protection hinges on consistent detection and response as the tactics used by cyberattackers evolve.
Discover & Identify Vulnerabilities
The importance of vulnerability assessment as an essential component of your cybersecurity program cannot be understated. When your security team discovers vulnerabilities, they can then patch them or determine other security methods that should be used.
To protect your assets above and beyond these seven types of vulnerability scanners, contact RSI Security today!