Vulnerability scanning software helps organizations monitor their networks, systems, and applications for security vulnerabilities. Security teams use vulnerability scans to identify vulnerabilities in their computer systems, networks, applications, and procedures.
When a company scans for vulnerabilities, it discovers and inventories all network access points and connected devices. They can then compare the findings from the scans to known vulnerabilities in a database. These tools can also detect anomalies in packet construction and paths to exploitable programs or scripts.
How to use vulnerability scanning software
Many organizations use more than one vulnerability scanner to get complete coverage of every asset. They can help detect outdated or bugged software, data breaches, and vulnerable misconfigured systems.
Vulnerability scanning software is also crucial in mitigating the growing threat of data breaches that require organizations to meet HIPAA, PCI-DSS, and GLBA regulatory standards starting with scanning, identifying, and patching vulnerabilities.
Using vulnerability scanners can help you stay ahead of attackers and save future costly headaches. However, knowing an organization’s scanning software needs is not always easy.
When looking for a vulnerability scanning tool, there are a few things a team should consider.
- Ensure the scanner can define compliance rules based on regulations and standards relevant to your industry and organization.
- To help prioritize efforts, a team should opt for a tool with an intuitive dashboard that clearly shows risk scores.
- You want to protect your most critical systems so look for a scanner that can handle that need.
Best vulnerability scanning software providers
We’ve analyzed the top 10 vulnerability scanning software providers and their key features and benefits for businesses:
- Rapid7 Nexpose
- Qualys Web Application Scanner
- Tenable Nessus
- Burp Suite
- Acunetix Vulnerability Scanner
- IBM Security QRadar
- Frontline VM
- How to choose a vulnerability scanning provider
- Bottom line: Vulnerability scanning software
Intruder is a pro-active vulnerability scanner that helps security teams prioritize the most critical vulnerabilities to avoid exposing an organization’s systems. It monitors systems for new threats with direct integrations with cloud providers and a run of thousands of thorough checks, which makes it easy to find and fix issues such as misconfigurations, missing patches, bugs, and more.
Integrations with Slack and Jira allows development teams to be in the know when newly discovered issues arise, and AWS integration allows synchronized scanning of IP addresses. It makes vulnerability management easier for small teams and tends to be popular with startups and medium-sized businesses.
The Essential and Pro plans each have a base fee but calculate overall pricing based on the number of targets. The Essential plan costs $352/month for 100 targets. The Pro plan costs $608/month for 100 targets. Note that both of these prices are currently discounted and standard pricing may be more expensive at different times of the year. The Pro plan also offers a 14-day free trial.
Pricing for the Premium plan is available through contacting Intruder.
- Ongoing attack surface monitoring
- Intelligent results so your team saves time analyzing results
- Reports for compliance audits
- Continuous penetration testing
- Intruder is easy to set up
- Users found the UI easy to navigate and cited great overall user experience
- The customer support team is particularly outstanding and quick to respond
- Intruder is a particularly good solution for small businesses, particularly those without a built-out IT team
- For some mid-sized companies with a lot of targets, the price per target may be expensive
- Intruder is a relatively new solution and may not be advanced enough for very large enterprises
Rapid7 Nexpose is a top-rated open-source vulnerability scanning solution. It can scan and assess physical, cloud, and virtual infrastructures automatically. Nexpose integrates with cloud and virtual environments, too. In addition, the tool provides live and interactive dashboards, solution-based remediation, and risk scoring and prioritization. It also offers a lightweight endpoint agent for processing information, all while using minimal bandwidth.
Since the CVSS risk score scale is 1-10, the Rapid7 Nexpose vulnerability scanner developed its risk score scale of 1-1000 to provide more nuance. In addition, it considers factors like vulnerability age and public exploits and malware kits while prioritizing risks.
Rapid7 offers a free trial for Nexpose. Contact the vendor to learn more about pricing or receive a quote for your business.
- Get a real-time view of risks
- Know where to put time and focus in the risk flow
- It’s easy to create asset groups based on how you divvy up remediation duties
- An ever-changing ecosystem of information and products working together to get smarter and improve each other’s ROI
- Rapid7 partners with VMware and works with major SIEM and NGFW products
- Nexpose has a free trial
- Open source provides more flexibility and allows Nexpose to work with other solutions without vendor lock-in issues
- Nexpose is an on-premises solution, and although it offers some cloud and virtualization integrations, enterprises that need a wider protective net may want to consider InsightVM, Rapid7’s vulnerability management platform
Qualys Web Application Scanner
Qualys Web Application Scanner is a cloud-based solution that finds official and “unofficial” apps throughout an environment. It’s designed specifically for web apps and detects OWASP’s top ten risks and other web application vulnerabilities. It catalogs all applications found in the business network. Qualys allows users to create labels and tag applications with those labels to manage access to data from scans.
The Qualys Vulnerability Management scanner operates behind the firewall in complex internal networks, can scan cloud environments, and detect vulnerabilities on geographically distributed networks at the perimeter. In addition, it monitors containers and endpoints. Its intuitive and customizable dashboard provides a unified view of all web apps and monitoring assets.
Qualys’ pricing is available upon request from the sales team. It also offers a free trial for the vulnerability scanner.
- Comprehensive discovery
- Find and catalog all your web apps
- Perform exhaustive application scans at scale
- Document your web app security status with actionable data
- Quickly secure web apps with integrated Qualys WAF
- Fully cloud-based
- Locates vulnerabilities in APIs, which is useful for dev teams that want to improve their security
- Integration with Qualys Web Application Firewall
- Single-pane-of-glass management console
Multiple customers had problems with false positives and slow responses from support
Read more about addressing false positives.
Tenable Nessus is a widely used, open-source vulnerability assessment tool. However, Nessus may be more suitable for experienced security teams because its interface can be challenging to get used to. Nevertheless, it can be used with penetration testing tools, providing targeted areas and potentially exploitable weaknesses. The software also gives flexibility by providing a scripting language (NASL) to write specific tests for the system.
Nessus comes with pre-built policies and templates for auditing and patching various IT and mobile assets, customizable reports, and automatic offline vulnerability assessment. Nessus also comes with patching assistance and helps in suggesting the best way to mitigate the vulnerabilities found. Pen testers and security consultants in particular will want to consider Nessus, as these are two use cases for which the software is specifically designed.
The Expert plan, designed for small businesses costs $4,990 for a year license. The Professional plan has fewer features and costs $3,390/year. Note that access to advanced support, like 24/7 email and phone, is an add-on.
- Securing cloud infrastructure
- Customizable reports
- Pre-built policies and templates
- Running compliance audits
- Available for both on-premises and cloud-based systems
- Can be deployed on multiple platforms
- Provides visibility into an organization’s internet-facing attack surface
- Multiple users had trouble with false positives
- Nessus isn’t designed for enterprises and may not have sufficient features for a large business
Learn more about penetration testing trends.
Invicti is excellent at what it does: scanning websites and web applications. But it is not designed to do anything else and lacks the range of many other products. However, using it is relatively straightforward. Invicti is a good choice for SMBs, but it may not be the best choice for larger enterprises.
The web-based security scanner has capabilities that can integrate with third-party tools. In addition, it features a proprietary proof-based scanning technique that excludes false positives and gives accurate results.
Invicti offers a free trial, the Pro plan, and the Enterprise plan. Pricing for both paid plans is available by contacting the vendor, which can be done through the “Get a demo” form.
- Ability to crawl advanced websites with heavy scripting and dynamically generated content
- Software composition analysis, which examines open source code for vulnerabilities
- Continuous scanning for potentially forgotten web assets
- Integrations with multiple web application firewalls, like Cloudflare and Imperva
- Customers found Invicti easy to use
- Multiple users said that Invicti has a low false positive rate
- Teams don’t need to be highly knowledgeable in source code
- Some customers pointed out that Invicti doesn’t sufficiently support 2FA or MFA applications. The Enterprise plan does have Okta and Active Directory integrations, but the Pro does not
- Because it’s only designed for websites, web apps, and APIs, Invicti won’t be the best choice for businesses that need to scan other resources
Burp Suite is a complete set of tools for testing web apps. It includes a vulnerability scanner, which scans for dynamic content and gives security teams manual control by allowing custom modifications with automated tasks.
Burp Suite touts an advanced algorithm and time-saving abilities. It integrates with bug-tracking systems like Jira, which can save a team time generating tickets. It’s also a top choice for contract bug bounty hunters, helping them locate web app vulnerabilities.
Burp Suite’s Professional plan costs $449/year and offers a free trial. The Enterprise Edition starts at $8,395/year for 5 concurrent scans (with two other plans for more scans). Portswigger does offer a community edition of Burp Suite that’s free, but note that it won’t have enough features for a complete pen testing solution.
- Designed for web application pen testing and bug bounty hunting
- Assistance in complying with multiple standards, including GDPR and HIPAA
- Zero-day vulnerability detection
- Good solution for bug bounty hunters
- Pro plan less expensive than other solutions, though it covers less ground as a vulnerability scanner
- Burp Suite is designed specifically for web applications, so it may not be the best choice for enterprises that need a full vulnerability scan
- It can be difficult for beginners to learn
Acunetix Vulnerability Scanner
Acunetix only scans web-based applications. But its multi-threaded scanner rapidly crawls across hundreds of thousands of pages to identify common web server configuration issues. It is particularly good at checking WordPress.
The Acunetix scanner also includes other integration with other helpful tools, such as Jenkins, Jira, and GitHub. It also boasts an impressively low false-positive rate. It scans an organization’s web app for more than 7,000 vulnerabilities like SQL Injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and local file inclusion (LFI).
Acunetix also has the feature of a log-in sequence recorder that allows users to crawl and scan password-protected websites automatically.
Acunetix pricing is available by filling out a quote request form.
- Dynamic application security testing (DAST) designed for development pipelines
- Allows users to run the first scan in minutes
- Standard and premium support available
- On-premise or cloud deployment
- Good for businesses that need to scan WordPress sites for vulnerabilities
- Generates reports for developers to understand web app vulnerabilities
- Scans script-heavy sites and HTML5 applications
Because Acunetix only scans websites and applications, it won’t be the best choice for enterprises that need to scan their entire tech infrastructure
IBM Security QRadar
IBM Security QRadar is a comprehensive suite offering threat detection and response tools. QRadar Vulnerability Manager minimizes false positives because it uses a rule-based approach and prioritizes the results by security intelligence. QRadar can also scan data collected from other scanners.
After scanning a network and correlating the information with network topology and connection data, it manages risk using a policy engine with automated compliance checks. The results are shown in a single, easy-to-read, prioritized view giving complete visibility across dynamic, multi-layered networks. Note that QRadar is a full security platform and not just a standalone scanner, so make sure your security teams are prepared to support this. The Vulnerability Manager is one feature in the SIEM platform.
QRadar’s SIEM pricing page provides a rough estimate for potential buyers based on their deployment method and number of workstations and servers. However, to get an exact quote, you must contact the sales team directly.
- Deploy on-premises, on the cloud, or as a service
- Threat management services through X-Force
- XDR capabilities offered through QRadar, like root-cause analysis
- Advanced security features offered through the broader QRadar SIEM platform
- Multiple deployment options
- Rule-based approach to scans
- QRadar is a SIEM and XDR solution, so it might take time for your teams to learn more than just a standard vulnerability scanner
An open source and comprehensive vulnerability scanner, OpenVAS is best for organizations on a tight budget. Greenbone, OpenVAS’s parent company, manages the vulnerability scanner solution and fixes security issues as users detect and report them.
Note that OpenVAS mainly runs on Linux and UNIX operating systems. To run it on Windows, you’ll have to create a Linux virtual machine first. OpenVAS is a good choice for smaller organizations with an experienced system admin or IT team, but it won’t be good for large enterprises. Inexperienced IT or security teams may find it challenging to install and learn since working in the source code can be complex, but experienced IT professionals will have plenty of opportunities to use their knowledge and customize OpenVAS.
OpenVAS is free.
- Open source code to which developers can contribute
- Automated scans
- Community forum with active lists of topics and subsequent discussion threads
- Users can contact Greenbone’s security response team if they notice a security issue
- OpenVAS is a good choice for small businesses that need to scan Linux environments
- OpenVAS doesn’t run on all operating systems. Because it’s Linux and UNIX-based, it won’t run natively on Windows or macOS
- OpenVAS and Greenbone have limited tech support
Frontline VM is a network vulnerability management solution within the Digital Defense platform of security and automation provider Fortra. Frontline VM offers web application scanning and other vulnerability management and threat assessment technology.
Frontline VM allows users to scan the network for vulnerabilities without maintaining additional infrastructure. This feature can save an organization a lot of time, effort, and money. With its patented network scanning technology, Frontline VM boasts quick scanning, a user-friendly GUI, and easy deployment. In addition, it provides many integration options—with vulnerability prioritization, network access control, and SIEM, covering many organizational use cases.
You must fill out a form to receive a quote from Fortra. The company offers a 14-day trial of Frontline VM.
- Compliance auditing
- Network endpoint correlation for accurate asset information and data tracking
- Customizable reports about assets’ specific vulnerabilities and patch management
- Role-based access control for VM users
- Free trial
- Broad vulnerability management features, along with scanning
- Highly-reviewed customer support
- Easy to use according to many customers
- Because Frontline VM is a full vulnerability management solution, it could be more complex and expensive than some simpler scanners
How to choose a vulnerability scanner provider
When it comes to the best vulnerability scanner features, organizations should consider one that offers multiple services and covers a wide range of security protection.
To get the best vulnerability scanning tools, security teams should consider the following three types of scanners and their features:
- Network-based vulnerability scanners: These scan the system across the network by sending inquiries, searching for all open services and ports, and then examining each service further to identify known vulnerabilities and configuration weaknesses.
- Agent-based vulnerability scanners: This vulnerability scanning tool involves installing a lightweight scanner on each machine, running a vulnerability scan locally on the device, and reporting the results to the server.
- Web application vulnerability scanners: These specialized vulnerability scanners focus on finding security gaps in websites and web applications. Many top vulnerability scanners offer web application scanning, while others include this in their offerings.
It can be hard to understand the impact of the findings and vulnerabilities of a scanning tool. As a result, you may come across false positives. This is especially true if a team is not specialized in security. If false positives are not filtered out, the tool does not get more intelligent and will continue to generate inaccurate results. An automated tool will not tell you what impact on different departments once a vulnerability is found.
And lastly, updates are constantly required so that the most current vulnerabilities are discovered.
Bottom line: Vulnerability scanning software
Identifying weaknesses within your organization’s tech infrastructure is critical for the business to maintain overall cybersecurity. Although solutions like firewalls may identify vulnerabilities in incoming traffic, they don’t catch everything, and some weaknesses may already exist within applications. IT teams won’t have time to manually examine every program and network, so vulnerability scans fill both a time and visibility gap.
Vulnerability scanners are also beneficial for development environments: dev teams can use scanners to reveal weaknesses within their code, allowing them to solve errors before production.
Read more about vulnerability scanning trends in the security market.
Jenna Phipps contributed reporting to this article.