The Ultimate Guide to Types of Vulnerability Assessments Explained

Cybercriminals target business networks using a variety of exploitable vulnerabilities. They evolve faster than security teams can keep pace, making it critical that companies run regular vulnerability assessments to identify and fix potential weaknesses before hackers do proactively.

Vulnerability assessments use specialized scanning tools to systematically discover system flaws, assess risks, and improve cybersecurity standards. Here are the most common types of vulnerability assessments:

Network-Based Assessment

Vulnerability assessments identify flaws in a business’s IT infrastructure that hackers could exploit. This process can help companies minimize damage caused by cyberattacks, and it’s one of the most crucial security measures any business can take to keep its systems secure.

Network vulnerability assessments can be performed in various ways depending on your company’s needs. A full scan of your network, including all of its hardware and software, can be used to identify possible vulnerabilities that might allow a hacker to gain entry into the system. A more detailed scan can also be conducted on individual workstations and servers, offering more visibility into configuration settings and patch histories.

An MSSP or in-house IT team often performs the scanning process, and the results are delivered in a report detailing each device and service, its current status, and the associated risks. Once you’ve identified any potential threats, a network administrator can take steps to remediate the problem.

A network-based assessment can be a good starting point for other security initiatives, such as installing firewalls and upgrading the operating system on workstations. Testing your network after making any changes is essential to ensure that your new systems are functioning correctly and that no new vulnerabilities have been introduced.

Host-Based Assessment

A types of vulnerability assessments called a “host-based assessment” looks at workstations, servers, and other computer systems connected to the company’s network. The services and ports accessible to a network-based scanner are checked, and configuration options and patch history are reviewed to identify potential vulnerabilities.

These assessments are often conducted with commercial or open-source scanners that analyze the host’s system file and registry to find vulnerabilities like incorrect file permissions, software configuration errors, and weak authentication or encryption. Many of these tools also utilize a technique known as stack fingerprinting, which detects a host’s characteristics from the software running on it.

This type of assessment is a great way to find these weaknesses before hackers do. Hackers continually scan the internet for security holes, so companies must be ahead of them and find those flaws first.

IT teams can fix them before attackers exploit them and damage the organization’s reputation. Plus, it can save on the costs of repairs and replacements after a cyber attack occurs. And it can reduce the risk of an incident that disrupts the business, causing customers to lose faith in an organization that once seemed trustworthy. By preventing breaches, vulnerability assessments can ensure that all employees can continue to access and work with critical data. It can help them keep their job and provide a better client and customer experience.

Web Application Assessment

A web application assessment is essential in establishing a solid security posture. It involves identifying current threats, attack surfaces, and weaknesses in an organization’s security processes. It allows businesses to choose the correct countermeasures and address any existing vulnerabilities.

The steps involved in a web application assessment include identifying threat actors, testing all web application components, and identifying any existing risks. Penetration testers often perform these assessments, including a review of the application’s architecture, business logic, and user inputs. It also includes checking for common OWASP vulnerabilities like SQL injection and cross-site scripting.

Other checks can include:

  • The encryption of session cookies.
  • Ensuring that session data is not transmitted in clear text.
  • Verifying that any authorization processes are not vulnerable.

It can also include testing and monitoring all activity to ensure that suspicious attempts are logged, identified, remediated, and documented.

A vital component of a web application assessment is the SSDLC (Secure Software Development Life Cycle) methodology, which aims to incorporate security requirements into the design process and perform regular security testing. It enables developers to think through the security implications of their code before it goes live so that they can fix issues in advance and prevent them from being exploited by hackers.

Wireless Assessment

Vulnerability assessments can detect vulnerabilities in your wireless network that hackers might exploit to launch a denial-of-service attack (DoS). These attacks flood the targeted system with traffic or other resources, causing it to crash and disrupt operations. Identifying and prioritizing these vulnerable assets can reduce the impact of such attacks and help your organization maintain the availability of critical IT infrastructure.

A wireless vulnerability assessment evaluates your Wi-Fi network and hardware for security flaws and identifies devices that should not be connected. It can identify weak passwords, unsecured software, or unpatched operating systems. Additionally, the engineer can survey your wireless local area network (WLAN) architecture to check channel arrangement, power settings, numbers of broadcast Service Set Identifiers (SSID), data rates, and other factors that determine performance and security.

Once the scan is complete, your team can identify, prioritize, and remediate all identified vulnerabilities. By establishing a consistent vulnerability management program that includes a schedule of quarterly, bi-annual, or annual vulnerability assessments, you can better ensure your systems are secure against cyber threats. To avoid costly vulnerabilities, it’s vital to integrate scanning and assessment into your SDLC process so that weaknesses can be detected early and corrected during development. It can help you improve your application security standards and ensure developers follow proper coding practices.

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