For any business today, scanning its systems and network for vulnerabilities is of critical importance. We now have all kinds of new, improved vulnerability scanners that make it all easy for entrepreneurs and network admins.
To be noted is the fact that a vulnerability scanner is as important as a malware scanner today. While a malware scanner helps check for malware and clear them, the vulnerability scanning tool could help prevent malware threats and attacks.
As the name clearly suggests, a vulnerability scanner scans systems and networks to identify and report back on open ports, active IP addresses and log-ons, software, OSs (Operating Systems) etc. The information that’s found during the scan is compared against known vulnerabilities in the scanner’s database or a third-party database (like CVE, OVAL, OSVDB or the SANS Institute/FBI Top 20), thereby aiding the process of identifying vulnerabilities. Vulnerability scanners prioritize known vulnerabilities based on the severity as critical, major or minor.
Vulnerability scanning tool is also important for compliance, it helps organizations adhere to the various IT rules and regulations.
Researching vulnerability scanners
There are different kinds of vulnerability scanners. Some free vulnerability scanners provide scanning and remedial reporting while some of the advanced, feature-rich ones include components like patch management, penetration testing etc.
At the same time, it should be kept in mind that many vulnerability scanners suffer from false-positives and false-negatives. While false-positives could cause you to hunt for information regarding issues that don’t exist, false-negatives could end up in the scanner being unable to identify and report serious issues.
Such issues must be kept in mind while researching to procure a vulnerability scanning tool. You also need to find out how the ones you compare fare as regards accuracy, scalability, reliability, reporting etc. Thus, researching and zeroing in on a good vulnerability scanning tool is an arduous task. After all, it’s all for the security of your business!
Software-Based Vulnerability Scanners: Ideal for medium-sized and large enterprises
Software-based vulnerability scanners, which are very commonly used by enterprises today, generally comprise of functionalities like target profiling, penetration testing, configuration auditing and detailed vulnerability analysis. While some of these integrate with Windows products (like Microsoft System Center) and provide intelligent patch management, some others function with mobile device managers. You could use them to scan servers, workstations, network devices, BYOD devices, virtual machines, databases etc. You could also integrate them with other existing scanners.
Because of their greatly improved interface, software-based vulnerability scanners require very less administration compared to their predecessors. The targeted analysis report and the clear remediation actions they offer make them very useful. The reporting functionality that these scanners have lets you sort on diverse criteria and helps make an assessment of changing trends.
When all kinds of threats loom large upon enterprises, vulnerability scan is of utmost importance to all medium-size and other big enterprises. The various network segments they have, the servers, the devices, routers, firewalls etc would have to be scanned regularly for vulnerabilities and hence they would need the software-based vulnerability scanning tool.
Cloud-Based Vulnerability Scanners: On-demand scanning and monitoring
Cloud-based vulnerability scanners are easy to use. They are on-demand scanners, delivered as SaaS (Software as a Service) that needs no installation, manual integration or maintenance. All you need to do is subscribe online to the scanning service and then go ahead with configuring your scans. The occurrence of false positives and false negatives are comparatively less as the scanner would test all definition lists and would also ensure that they are current.
Such cloud-based network security scanning tools would provide continuous, hands-free monitoring of all systems and devices on all network segments (internal or perimeter).
Cloud-based vulnerability scanners, like the software-based ones, have links for downloading vendor patches/updates for identified vulnerabilities. This helps reduce remediation effort. They also include scanning thresholds which help prevent overloading devices when the scanning takes place, thereby preventing device crashes.
For smaller organizations or environments, which cannot afford full-featured vulnerability scanning tools, the on-demand cloud-based scanners are the best. These would provide them detailed reporting as well.
William Harvey is a Technical Blog Writer who works in Hacker Combat. He writes about information security, focusing on web security, operating system security and endpoint protection systems.