Vulnerability scans are an important aspect of a robust cybersecurity program. By regularly scanning for vulnerabilities, organizations can identify and address weaknesses in their systems and infrastructure before they can be exploited by cyber criminals.
There are several key reasons why it is important to run vulnerability scans preparing for an audit or self-assessment. THat least quarterly, if not more often:
Vulnerabilities can be introduced at any time
New vulnerabilities can be introduced through software updates, configuration changes, or the integration of new systems. By regularly scanning for vulnerabilities, your organization can identify and address these weaknesses before they can be exploited.
Target data breach (2013): In 2013, the retail giant Target suffered a data breach that affected the personal and financial information of 40 million customers. The breach was later traced back to a vulnerability in the company’s payment system, which had not been adequately secured. Had Target been regularly scanning for vulnerabilities and addressing any weaknesses in its systems, the breach may have been prevented.
Threats are constantly evolving
Cyber criminals are constantly developing new tactics, techniques, and procedures to exploit vulnerabilities. Keep your scans regular so you can be aware of the latest threats and can take appropriate action to mitigate them.
Yahoo data breach (2013-2014): In 2013 and 2014, the internet company Yahoo suffered a data breach that affected all 3 billion of its user accounts. The breach was later traced back to a vulnerability in the company’s systems, which had not been detected or addressed. Regular vulnerability scanning could have potentially helped Yahoo identify and address this weakness before it was exploited.
Many industry regulations and standards, such as PCI DSS and HIPAA, require regular vulnerability scanning as a means of demonstrating that an organization is taking reasonable steps to secure its systems and data.
Marriott data breach (2018): In 2018, the hotel chain Marriott announced that its reservation system had been hacked, potentially affecting the personal and financial information of up to 500 million guests. The breach was later traced back to a vulnerability in the company’s systems, which had not been detected or addressed. Regular vulnerability scanning could have potentially helped Marriott identify and address this weakness before it was exploited.
Proactive vulnerability management can help organizations avoid costly data breaches and downtime. By identifying and addressing vulnerabilities before they can be exploited, organizations can save money on incident response and remediation efforts.
Focus on the Web Applications
From a malicious hackers perspective, if phishing doesn’t help get their code onto your network, perhaps your web applications that are currently running can help them out. Scanning your web applications will look for security vulnerabilities such as Cross-site scripting, SQL Injection, Command Injection, Path Traversal and insecure server configuration.
Dynamic application security testing (DAST) is a technique used to test the security of an application while it is running. It involves examining the application from the outside, without any knowledge of its internal interactions or design, and without access to the source code. This type of testing, sometimes referred to as “black box” testing, involves using a testing tool to simulate attacks on the application and observing its responses. The goal of DAST is to determine if the application is vulnerable to real malicious attacks by analyzing its responses to simulated attacks.
Static application security testing (SAST) is a type of tool that is commonly used to identify and address security vulnerabilities in applications. It works by scanning the source code, binary code, or byte code of an application, looking for potential vulnerabilities. SAST tools are considered “white-box” testing tools because they have access to the internal structure and design of the application. They are able to identify the root cause of vulnerabilities and provide recommendations for fixing them. Unlike dynamic application security testing (DAST), SAST does not require a running system to perform a scan and instead analyzes the application from the inside out.
There are plenty of paid SaaS, Software, Open Source, and Free tools out there to help you. Running vulnerability scans regularly is crucial for maintaining the security and integrity of an organization’s systems and data.