What are vulnerability scanners

Most security teams utilize vulnerability scanners to bring to light security vulnerabilities in their computer systems, networks, applications and procedures. There are a plethora of vulnerability scanning tools available, each offering a unique combination of capabilities.

Leading vulnerability scanners provide users with information about:

  1. Weaknesses in their environment
  2. Insights into degrees of risk from each vulnerability
  3. Recommendations on how to mitigate the vulnerability

Before purchasing a vulnerability scanning tool, it’s important to understand exactly how scanning will contribute to your more broad vulnerability management and security posture strategy. Traditional vulnerability scanning tools can play an important role in catching common CVEs if the scans are conducted frequently. Companies typically conduct vulnerability scans on their networks and devices consistently because as their technology, software, etc. continue to develop and undergo changes, there is a higher risk for threats to appear.

Five Types of vulnerability scanners

Vulnerability scanners can be categorized into 5 types based on the type of assets they scan.

Five Types of Vulnerability Assessment Scanners
Details of five types of vulnerability assessment scanners – 1. network based scanners 2. Host bases scanners 3. Wireless scanners 4. Applications scanners, and 5. Database scanners
  1. Network-based scans, to identify possible network security attacks and vulnerable systems on wired or wireless networks
  2. Host-based scans, to locate and identify vulnerabilities in servers, workstations, or other network hosts, and provide greater visibility into the configuration settings and patch history of scanned systems
  3. Wireless scans of an organization’s Wi-Fi network, to identify rogue access points and also validate that a company’s network is securely configured
  4. Application scans, to test websites in order to detect known software vulnerabilities and erroneous configurations in network or web applications
  5. Database scans, to identify the weak points in a database so as to prevent malicious attacks

External vs Internal Vulnerability Scans

An external vulnerability scan can help organizations to identify and fix security vulnerabilities that an adversary can use to gain access to it’s network. External vulnerability scan is performed from outside an organization’s network, targeting IT infrastructure that is exposed to the internet including web applications, ports, networks etc..

An external scan can detect vulnerabilities in the perimeter defenses such as:-

  • Open ports in the network firewall
  • Specialized web application firewall.

An internal vulnerability scan is carried out from inside an enterprise network. These scans allow you to harden and protect applications and systems that are not covered by external scans. An internal vulnerability scan can detect issues such as: –

  1. Vulnerabilities that can be exploited by an adversary who has penetrated the perimeter defenses
  2. Threat posed by malware that has made it to inside the network
  3. Identify “insider threats” posed by disgruntled employees or contractors

Authenticated vs. Unauthenticated Vulnerability Scans

To ensure that vulnerability scans have no lapse in detection, it is suggested that both authenticated and unauthenticated vulnerability scans are conducted. While the authenticated scan allows the tester to log in as a user and see vulnerabilities from a trusted user’s perspective, the unauthentic scan does the opposite and offers the perspective of an intruder. Scanning under all circumstances, again, ensures that even with constantly evolving technology, companies are safe from threats.

Going Beyond Scanning with Balbix

While leveraging numerous types of scans is an important step for mitigating risk, an effective vulnerability assessment program will go beyond scanning intermittently.

Balbix continuously analyzes and detects vulnerabilities across an enterprise’s entire attack surface. It identifies and prioritizes which vulnerabilities are most critical to your business based on importance of assets and their susceptibility to 100+ attack vectors. Balbix deploys sensors across the entire enterprise network, allowing it to automatically and continuously discover and monitor all devices, apps, and users for hundreds of attack vectors.

The “Balbix Brain” runs in the cloud and uses machine learning and AI to calculate risk for every network entity. This continuous analysis is displayed on the Balbix risk dashboard which provides insights to prevent breaches.

While vulnerability scanners only provide a screenshot of risk from a specific point in time, Balbix provides ongoing analysis of a company’s entire attack surface continuously and in real time.