Vulnerability’, the word that strikes fear into the hearts of the most intimidating of men. A simple web search will tell you that vulnerability mean; ‘the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed’. People tend to avoid their weaknesses, but weaknesses in IT assets may lead to the downfall of a company. A good vulnerability assessment can make or break the proper functioning and success of an enterprise.
There is an abundance of evil doers constantly searching for these vulnerabilities, trying to destroy the livelihood of others. Unprepared targets often fall victim to these attacks, so it is important to take precautions to patch these gaps in security. Vulnerability assessment is the first measure to be taken.
Vulnerability assessment is the process of analyzing computer systems to identify, categorize and prioritize vulnerabilities to provide an understanding to tackle the weaknesses systematically. It is a threat avoidance mechanism which prevents attackers from gaining access and not a threat mitigation method.
Vulnerability analysis can reveal various shortcomings in the companies’ security and it is essential to locate these before attackers to prevent a breach in company security. It consists of a vulnerability scan and the generation of a detailed documentation based on the results of the preceding scan. The analysis consists of a report with the vulnerabilities detected priority wise and a structure layer of how to combat them. Regular assessments should be done to keep the enterprise secure from threats.
Vulnerability assessment generally follows the below process:
- Gathering Information: this step consists of understanding the companies’ requirements, creating an inventory of the software and hardware and realizing the weight of each device in the network.
- Vulnerability Scanning: once we have the information about the devices and their importance in the running of the company, we have to start performing the scans on each appliance, port and network. This means we have to start attacking the device (with permission of the owners) to test for vulnerabilities.
- Generating the Report: all the data should be documented in an organized manner and each vulnerability found must be given a critical rank to make well-defined, consecutive steps to fixing the problem.
The benefits of vulnerability assessment are:
Identifying potential security flaws
The realization that a problem exists is the first step towards fixing it. Attackers start by gathering information about their victims and then scanning for any weaknesses that they can capitalize on. It is important for to find the faults before they fall into the wrong hands. Ignoring or failing to grasp the significance of the vulnerability, may cause the undoing of the company.
Vulnerability analysis accounts for these flaws before attackers have a chance to find them. Scanning and performing penetration tests (pentests) on the devices and application in the business reveals the same vulnerabilities that the attackers use to access the asset.
Provides inventory of devices in a company
When performing vulnerability assessments, a record of all devices in the company must be provided. This creates an organized file to account for all the systems that are at work in the company. The weak points in all the devices can then be recorded into a report to figure out which devices must be cautiously used and which devices can be more leniently observed.
Also if by some unfortunate events, an attacker is able to gain access to a device, since all devices are logged into the report the device can be disconnected from the network to disable the attacker from attacking the other devices. This helps containing the attack to a single device and keeps it from spreading through the network.
The infected asset can be monitored to find out how the attacker gained access and what they are doing. This can further be used to patch devices with similar vulnerabilities.
Illustrate the risk in each vulnerability
A proper risk factor chart is created on the findings of the vulnerability scan. Based off of the chart, priority levels can be assigned to the vulnerabilities according to their potential exploit-ability. The vulnerabilities can then be dealt one-by-one depending on different factors; how easy the vulnerability is to exploit, the amount of information that can be accessed if it is exploited, how much damage will be done if the vulnerability is abused. This establishes an appropriate approach in creating counter-measures to omit the chinks in the armor.
Create a structured layout to patch vulnerabilities
Pentesting enables us to find the vulnerabilities in a system, but once they are found, counter-measures must take to patch them. This is where pentesting lacks and vulnerability assessment takes the cake. With a comprehensive log constructed, we now have all the components ready to build a plan to mitigate the shortcomings. A vulnerability assessment not only uncovers the flaws in the business but also proposes a strategy to take action in securing the company assets.
According to the CVE 6,447 vulnerabilities were reported in the year 2016 alone, with a record increase of 120% to 14,600 the following year. With ever-growing technology, the minds of the wicked are evolving too, this is creating more complex and coordinated threats. These threats are becoming increasingly difficult to avoid. Securing all assets from these evil masterminds is a must for any business and vulnerability assessment is the perfect starting point to achieving success. Skimping on security can prove to be fatal for your company. Investing good money in auditors and vulnerability analysis tools will go a long way in securing your companies’ assets and a hassle free business module.
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