Vulnerability scanning is the process of testing and assessing the state and conditions of computer software, hardware, and networks for known weaknesses and bugs. It’s essential to perform regular vulnerability scans in order to ensure your system’s security is up to date.
While the process and required frequency vary depending on the scanned system, all vulnerability scans serve the same purpose: to minimize the chances of data breaches that could endanger the system.
Continue reading to learn more about the benefits of running regular vulnerability scans, what vulnerabilities you can expect to uncover, as well as the possible consequences of not performing them.
5 Benefits of Vulnerability Scanning
Regular vulnerability scanning is as important as continuous system and network monitoring. While it can help elevate the performance and security of some systems and applications, it’s especially necessary if you’re in the financial or healthcare industries.
Some notable benefits of vulnerability scanning include:
1. Achieving Long-term Cost Efficiency
This is a case of prevention being better than a cure. Data breaches and leaks are not only expensive to remedy but can also negatively and permanently impact your bottom line.
Vulnerability scanning greatly reduces the risks of cyberattacks by allowing you to detect and fix vulnerabilities as soon as they’re apparent.
Furthermore, in the case of software updates, especially for containerized applications, performing a vulnerability scan on the update patch helps you to avoid introducing a vulnerability to the main app and fix it before rollouts.
2. Gaining Customer and Investor Trust
Having a long record of completed vulnerability scans, along with the steps you’ve taken to remedy the issues found, is a good way to earn the trust and confidence of both your customers and investors.
With data privacy and security becoming more of a priority for customers, they’re more likely to use your services and products if you prove you can protect their personal information. The same applies to investors, as data breaches aren’t only expensive to you; they also harm their investment.
3. Achieving Operational Efficiency
There’s always room for your system or application to do more with fewer resources. Proper vulnerability scanning and management can help you identify weaknesses in your systems that may be affecting overall performance either directly or indirectly.
This benefit is especially apparent when it comes to large systems, where it’s nearly impossible to keep track of all segments and their resource requirements.
Regular scans, over time, enable you to detect trends in areas of your network, system, or app that require the most attention. From there, you can allocate the necessary resources toward it.
4. Meeting Data Privacy and Security Regulations
The security and privacy standards of your business are not a company-exclusive matter. You need to acquire the certification and approval of a number of regulatory entities in order to run businesses, especially if you operate in more data-sensitive sectors and regions.
For instance, complying with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is mandatory for all corporate entities operating in the European Union.
When it comes to specific sectors, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is essential for companies that handle the financial information of customers. Similarly, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is a requirement for healthcare facilities and services.
One of the necessary requirements to comply with any of the above standards is providing proof of the security and privacy of your product or service, which can only be done through regular vulnerability checks.
5. Fixing Vulnerabilities Before They’re Exploited
The primary benefit of vulnerability scanning is detecting and identifying vulnerabilities and gaps in your security before they’re exploited by hackers and cybercriminals.
Performing vulnerability scans regularly ensures you’re always a step ahead of any hacker looking to gain access to your network as well as any internally-motivated data leaks.
Read more about vulnerability scanning trends in the security market.
5 Common Vulnerabilities Found in Scans
Whether it’s for networks, computer systems, or applications, vulnerability scanning can help you find and promptly fix the most common vulnerabilities found in your service or product, such as:
Malware, short for malicious software, can be anything from harmful and destructive to simply annoying. They range in type from viruses and keyloggers to Trojans, ransomware, and adware.
Malware tends to take advantage of unaddressed network or system vulnerabilities and continues running and spreading through network security gaps. Some malware lies dormant and can only be found and removed through regular scanning.
Signs of a malware infestation vary greatly; systems may run slower and reboot unprompted or perform actions without user permission.
2. Outdated Software
Outdated software patches tend to be the most vulnerable parts of a network or system. Since they rely on older security procedures and protocols, hackers are more likely to be familiar with their weaknesses.
In addition to security bugs in the code itself, vulnerability scans can help identify the entirety of an outdated network section and advise you to update it.
3. Firewall Misconfigurations
Even security tools need regular checkups and scans to make sure they’re running up to standard. Firewall misconfigurations are more common in large and complex networks, where it can be more challenging to manually keep up with firewall configurations for all network segments and devices.
Since firewalls are the first — and, in some cases, the only — lines of defense standing between your system or network’s resources and outside servers and devices, misconfigurations leave a door wide open for malware and hackers to exploit.
4. Communications Encryption
The encryption of transferred data is what protects it from being intercepted by outside parties. It’s critical for the encryption protocol to be up-to-date and compatible with the level of protection and complexity the data needs.
Vulnerability scanning can help you locate and fix insufficient or totally lacking encryption. This type of vulnerability is especially prominent in networks and applications that regularly handle and transfer user data.
5. Cross-Site Scripting
Cross-site scripting, or XSS, is a vulnerability that’s very common in applications. It’s a gap in the front-facing end of a web app that attackers can exploit to inject scripts into the client-side of the app.
This vulnerability can be escalated into bypassing access control and privileges, giving attackers partial or full access to the private resources of the application as well as any openly connected systems or networks.
Consequences of Not Running Vulnerability Scans
Without regular and proper vulnerability scans, your system can fill up with vulnerabilities that are too numerous to remedy. Not only does it leave all the above-mentioned vulnerabilities unaddressed for hackers and attackers to exploit, but it can also start to affect the efficiency of your system.
The consequences are also present even if no hacker attacks your system, as you won’t be able to apply for and receive required or complementary data security and privacy certifications.
In the time between one security audit and the next, you may lose critical certifications that are mandated by law for companies of your size and industry. Furthermore, in the long term, you may start to lose the trust and loyalty of both your customers and investors, in addition to any business partnerships you might’ve cultivated.
“One of the easy entryways for many hackers is through exploiting known vulnerabilities in operating systems and devices that are the backbone of business systems,” says Trishneet Arora, CEO of TAC Security and a member of the Forbes Technology Council.
“Part of IT’s responsibility is to find and patch these vulnerabilities to reduce the attack surface available to hackers. This is a non-trivial task, as there are thousands of known vulnerabilities,” adds Arora.
Bottom Line: Importance of Vulnerability Scans
Vulnerability scans are an essential procedure used for detecting gaps and vulnerabilities in a system, network, or application’s security. It’s not a replacement for standard cyber and network security tools, but it helps ensure they all run in accordance with one another with no gaps left to be exploited.
There are countless benefits of regularly employing vulnerability scanning, from prompting trust with customers, investors, and business partners to gaining mandatory certificates for operating a business in your industry.
The consequences of not performing proper or regular security scans are grave and can be the procedure standing between the prosperity and collapse of your business.
Check out the Top 10 Vulnerability Scanning Software and Tools.