Protecting critical network systems and assets is not optional in today’s ever-evolving cybersecurity threat landscape. Cybercriminals use every weapon they can to discover weaknesses in an organization’s IT architecture; a routine security vulnerability assessment can be a frontline defense.

A security vulnerability assessment identifies the security vulnerabilities in an organization’s network software and hardware, ranking each vulnerability based on its degree of severity.

The vulnerability assessment then recommends the necessary remediation steps to fix the vulnerabilities and secure the network environment. A proper vulnerability assessment also considers the business processes that cybersecurity vulnerabilities could harm.

A security vulnerability assessment provides vital information security teams can use in their network risk assessment and threat mitigation efforts, allowing them to prioritize which weaknesses to address first.

Vulnerability scans using automated vulnerability assessment tools can uncover a wide range of security vulnerability types, including system misconfigurations, firewall breaches, SQL injections, cross-site scripting, and other known vulnerabilities.

Something to consider when vulnerability testing is the difference between threat and vulnerability. A threat is of a “what if” scenario, an event that has yet to occur; a vulnerability is a weakness that currently exists. Vulnerability assessments search for both.

Another consideration when organizations conduct a vulnerability assessment is the distinction between hardware and software vulnerabilities. Each comes with its own set of challenges and concerns.

For example, there can be thousands of software vulnerabilities for every hardware vulnerability. CVE listed nearly 15,000 known software security vulnerabilities in 2018 alone. Because IT teams update software more frequently, however, software vulnerabilities tend to be more immediate and have a shorter-lived security harm than hardware vulnerabilities. In contrast, hardware vulnerabilities are harder and slower to patch than their software counterparts.

What Are the Stages of Identifying Vulnerabilities?

Methodologies used to identify vulnerabilities can vary from one environment to the next, but most follow four main stages:

  • Identifying vulnerabilities that could affect networks and systems;
  • Evaluating vulnerabilities regarding their degree of severity;
  • Remediating vulnerabilities to prevent exploitation; and
  • Reporting on vulnerabilities to improve future security responses.

Vulnerabilities come in many forms. Some of the most common are SQL injection, cross-site scripting, malware, social engineering attacks, and outdated or unpatched software. Perhaps the most common is misconfigured systems, such as firewalls and operating systems.

How Do You Conduct a Security Vulnerability Assessment?

Implementing a comprehensive vulnerability management program follows a pattern similar to that used in identifying vulnerabilities. It consists of four steps:

  1. Identify

    Identifying issues to consider is the first and most crucial step. Teams can find vulnerabilities themselves using a web application vulnerability scanner and penetration testing or react on a case-by-case basis.

  2. Assess

    Once identified, vulnerabilities need to be ranked according to severity. Teams create criteria to assess a particular vulnerability’s harm. This step helps in prioritizing the vulnerabilities to address first.

  3. Remediate

    The most critical vulnerabilities demand immediate remediation. Teams can place those determined to be less severe in a queue to address later.

  4. Report

    Security teams should keep reports detailing identified and remediated vulnerabilities. A detailed report provides a record of remediation steps that worked previously, in the event a vulnerability reoccurs.

    A network security vulnerability assessment process is typically followed by penetration testing, commonly referred to as “pen testing.”

    Keep in mind that unlike pen testing, which consists of a simulated cyberattack against an IT system to find vulnerabilities, a vulnerability assessment only identifies security weaknesses and takes steps to fix, not exploit, them.

    A network vulnerability assessment is generally conducted via automated network vulnerability scanning tools, while pen testing requires manual intervention by a qualified pen tester.

    Once teams complete the network cybersecurity vulnerability scans and penetration testing, the assessment offers an action plan to mitigate and fix the identified cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

ZenGRC Helps Protect You Against Vulnerabilities

Comprehensive vulnerability management is important for maintaining an organization’s cybersecurity and peace of mind. For risk management, remediation, and security vulnerability analysis and control, ZenGRC actively helps to reduce the likelihood that risks will occur.

ZenGRC is an industry-leading information security risk and compliance solution. It combines risk and compliance management to allow security teams to identify, monitor and mitigate risks, threats, and vulnerabilities quickly and efficiently. The platform minimizes manual effort, increases visibility and reporting, and directly integrates with critical business applications.

To discover the full power of ZenGRC, schedule a free demo today.