Cyber Security Awareness Week 4: The Importance of Vulnerability Scanning & Management

As data breaches increasingly dominate headlines, organisations need to ensure they are protected with proactive, preventive measures.

With cyber-attack techniques constantly evolving, security teams are working constantly to secure their extensive and complex attack surface, which includes all endpoints, infrastructure, and devices. But cyber-attackers are also working tirelessly to detect vulnerabilities and flaws in across an organisations network that can be exploited, so how can you keep protected?

Having a comprehensive security strategy in place will help to reduce your attack surface, things such as assuming zero trust, regularly monitoring for vulnerabilities, using strong encryption and multifactor authentication policies, and training your employees should all form part of this strategy.

What are Vulnerabilities?

Vulnerabilities are flaws and weaknesses in an IT system that an attacker can exploit to gain access to the organisations network for malicious purposes. With there being several different types of software, this brings the risk of numerous different types of vulnerabilities that can go undiscovered. Adopting a vulnerability scanning tool into your cyber security procedures will act as an extra layer of security to keep your companies’ sensitive data secure.

Having a vulnerability management solution in place and running regular scans for vulnerabilities on your network is critical for organisations to be able to identify, evaluate and respond to potential threats and targets, minimizing the attack surface.

There are a number of security vulnerabilities that can be exploited, but the more common ones are:

  • Unpatched systems
  • Application vulnerabilities
  • Misconfigured systems
  • Default or weak credentials
  • Operating system vulnerabilities
  • Soon to expire or already expired certificates

What is Vulnerability Scanning?

A vulnerability scanning tool will scan for vulnerabilities across all your internal and external devices and applications, giving you a risk-based view of your environment, it will identify, assess and prioritise any issues found, giving you the warning that you need to focus your efforts on minimising the risks before it is too late.

A vulnerability scan may be performed by the IT department in an organisation or by an external partner company, such as Krome, that specialises in this service. Vulnerabilities can be proficiently managed once they have been identified, accessed, and prioritised, having a vulnerability scanning tool is an effective way to help keep your organisation secure.

With a proactive vulnerability scanning tool or service, the efficiency and outcome of this process can be greatly improved. There are many vulnerability management and scanning tools available, our preferred vendor in this space is Tenable.

Why are Vulnerability Scans Important?

Vulnerability scans should form a critical part of any cyber defence strategy, as all systems that are connected to the internet are constantly being scanned, with attackers looking for an unpatched system to exploit or any easy way to get in. Any organisation, of any size can be susceptible to vulnerabilities, especially with the continuous advancements of the different types and methods constantly changing and adapting to new system changes.

Having a vulnerability scanning tool is essential, as the tool can identify any vulnerabilities before it could become a gateway for cyber criminals. Utilising a vulnerability scanner reduces the load from the IT department of having to manually scan for security issues, and if there are any discovered during the manual checks, then the team will have to determine how to resolve the vulnerability to protect the system.

After running a vulnerability scan, the tool will generate a report which will identify and prioritise any vulnerabilities found, enabling you to, or your chosen partner to remediate.

Over 8,000 vulnerabilities were published in Q1 of 2022 – This is roughly a 25% increase from the same period the year prior. – Reported by Comparitech

All it takes is one vulnerability for an attacker to have access to your network, and therefore it is essential to patch these security vulnerabilities to fill any gaps in your networks security.

If you don’t perform regular patch management by updating your software, firmware, and operating systems to the latest versions as soon as they’re released, these vulnerabilities will remain exploitable, for potential hackers to take advantage of.

The Benefits of Scanning for Vulnerabilities

There are several benefits of utilising a vulnerability scanning tool as an effective method for vulnerability management:

  • Defeat Cyber Criminals – Scanning tools typically perform hundreds/thousands of checks at a much faster pace than manual testing, which means the tool will identify any vulnerabilities before cybercriminals can take advantage of them. Most cyber-attacks involve cybercriminals searching and exploiting any vulnerabilities that are embedded in an organisation’s IT infrastructure; having the ability to scan at a drastically faster pace aids to keep you ahead of potential threats.
  • Meet Data Protection Requirements –Whilst vulnerability scanning isn’t a requirement for GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), it is required for organisations to ensure they have implemented the appropriate security measures when dealing with personal data, which involves identifying vulnerabilities. It is also a requirement to patch system vulnerabilities in a given timeframe to achieve Cyber Essentials Plus, a government-endorsed security certification. A scanning tool will be used by a testing body to confirm this, so using one yourself in advance helps to confirm your compliance prior to assessment. Scanning for vulnerabilities is also a requirement for PCI DSS compliance.
  • Highlights Level of Security – Performing regular vulnerability scans will help organisations determine the level of effectiveness of their security processes. If there are many older vulnerabilities discovered, this is an indication that their security measures are not working effectively, and changes need to be promptly implemented.

How can Krome help you with your Vulnerability Scanning?

Anyone can scan for vulnerabilities, but it is how you interpret and manage the key results, along with ensuring that you prioritise the remediation required to ensure that your systems are protected.

As a Tenable Managed Services partner, we can assist you in several ways:

  • Provide your Tenable platform for you to run and manage in your own environment.
  • Provides a point in time vulnerability assessment service powered by Tenable Nessus Pro, that is evaluated by one of our security professionals, with recommendations and remediation services undertaken by Krome should you require them.
  • Provide you with a fully managed service throughout the process.

Our scanning services will highlight where your systems are vulnerable and will report on your remediation actions, in order of severity and priority. For those organisations that find themselves short on resources and time, Krome can also manage the remediation required to resolve the vulnerabilities in your environment before they are exploited.

For more information on how Krome can assist you with your cybersecurity, please get in contact using the form below.

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