A vulnerability scanner is a computer program designed to assess computers, network vulnerability or applications for known weaknesses. In plain words, these scanners are used to discover the weaknesses of a given system. They are utilized in the identification and detection of vulnerabilities arising from mis-configurations or flawed programming within a network-based asset such as a firewall, router, web server, application server, etc. They are typically available as SaaS (Software as a service); provided over the internet and delivered as a web application.
Most vulnerability scanners will also attempt to log in to systems using default or other credentials in order to build a more detailed picture of the system. After building up an inventory, the vulnerability scanner checks each item in the inventory against one or more databases of known vulnerabilities to see if any items are subject to any of these vulnerabilities. The result of such scan is a systems vulnerability analysis, highlighting any that have known vulnerabilities that may need threat and vulnerability management.
How vulnerability scanning works. Vulnerability scanning finds systems and software that have known security vulnerabilities, but this information is only useful to IT security teams when it is used as the first part of a four-part vulnerability management process. Vulnerability management process involves:
- Identification of vulnerabilities
- Evaluation of the risk posed by any vulnerabilities identified
- Treatment of any identified vulnerabilities
- Reporting on vulnerabilities and how they have been handled
Types of vulnerability scans. Not all vulnerability scans are alike, and to ensure compliance with certain regulations (such as those set by the PCI Security Standards Council) it is necessary to carry out two distinct types of vulnerability scans: an internal and an external vulnerability scan.
External vulnerability scan. As the name suggests, an external vulnerability scan is carried out from outside an organization's network, and its principal purpose is to detect vulnerabilities in the perimeter defenses such as open ports in the network firewall or specialized web application firewall. An external vulnerability scan can help organizations fix security issues that could enable hackers to gain access to the organization's network.
Internal vulnerability scan. By contrast, an internal vulnerability scan is carried out from inside an organization's perimeter defenses. Its purpose is to detect vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers who successfully penetrate the perimeter defenses, or equally by "insider threats" such as contractors or disgruntled employees who have legitimate access to parts of the network.
Unauthenticated and authenticated vulnerability scans. A similar but not always identical variation of internal and external vulnerability scans is the concept of unauthenticated and authenticated vulnerability scans. Unauthenticated scans, like external scans, search for weaknesses in the network perimeter, while authenticated scans provide vulnerability scanners with various privileged credentials, allowing them to probe the inside of the network for weak passwords, configuration issues, and misconfigured databases or applications.
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F.A.Q about Vulnerability Scanner
What is Vulnerability Assessment?
Vulnerability Assessment is also known as Vulnerability Testing, is a vulnerability scanning software performed to evaluate the security risks in the software system in order to reduce the probability of a threat. Vulnerability Analysis depends upon two mechanisms namely Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT).
Types of a vulnerability scanner:
Host Based. Identifies the issues in the host or the system. The process is carried out by using host-based scanners and diagnose the vulnerabilities. The host-based tools will load a mediator software onto the target system; it will trace the event and report it to the security analyst.
Network-Based. It will detect the open port, and identify the unknown services running on these ports. Then it will disclose possible vulnerabilities associated with these services. This process is done by using Network-based Scanners.
Database-Based. It will identify the security exposure in the database systems using tools and techniques to prevent from SQL Injections. (SQL Injections: - Injecting SQL statements into the database by the malicious users, which can read the sensitive data's from a database and can update the data in the Database.)
How vulnerability scanners works?
Vulnerability scanning is an inspection of the potential points of exploit on a computer or network to identify security holes.
A security scan detects and classifies system weaknesses in computers, networks and communications equipment and predicts the effectiveness of countermeasures. A scan may be performed by an organization’s IT department or a security service provide, possibly as a condition imposed by some authority. Vulnerability scans are also used by attackers looking for points of entry.
A vulnerability scanner runs from the end point of the person inspecting the attack surface in question. The software compares details about the target attack surface to a database of information about known security holes in services and ports, anomalies in packet construction, and potential paths to exploitable programs or scripts. The scanner software attempts to exploit each vulnerability that is discovered.
Running a vulnerability scan can pose its own risks as it is inherently intrusive on the target machine’s running code. As a result, the scan can cause issues such as errors and reboots, reducing productivity.
How to choose the best vulnerability scanning tool?
When researching vulnerability scanners, it's important to find out how they're rated for accuracy (the most important metric) as well as reliability, scalability and reporting. If accuracy is lacking, you'll end up running two different scanners, hoping that one picks up vulnerabilities that the other misses. This adds cost and effort to the scanning process.
Software-Based Vulnerability Scanners. These types of scanning products generally include configuration auditing, target profiling, penetration testing and detailed vulnerability analysis. They integrate with Windows products, such as Microsoft System Center, to provide intelligent patch management; some work with mobile device managers. They can scan not only physical network devices, servers and workstations, but extend to virtual machines, BYOD mobile devices and databases.
Cloud-Based Vulnerability Scanners: Continuous, On-Demand Monitoring. A newer type of vulnerability finder is delivered on-demand as Software as a Service (SaaS). Like software-based scanners, on-demand scanners incorporate links for downloading vendor patches and updates for identified vulnerabilities, reducing remediation effort. These services also include scanning thresholds to prevent overloading devices during the scanning process, which can cause devices to crash.
What is mobile application security scanner?
Mobile application security testing can help ensure there aren’t any loopholes in the software that may cause data loss. The sets of tests are meant to attack the app to identify possible threats and vulnerabilities that would allow external persons or systems to access private information stored on the mobile device.
Mobile application vulnerability scanner can help to ensure that applications are free from the flaws and weaknesses that hackers use to gain access to sensitive information. From backdoors, malicious code and other threats, these flaws may be present both in commercial and open source applications as well as software developed in-house.