A Guide to Network Security Vulnerability Assessment
Conducting a network security vulnerability assessment on a regular basis is important for any organization today. This is crucial as regards ensuring improved cybersecurity and thus protecting organizational networks and critical data.
As data breaches are now rampant, happening all across the globe at totally unprecedented scales, failing to do regular network security vulnerability assessment could impact an organization greatly. It could cause great damages to the company, its reputation and business. Organizations today understand the importance of conducting vulnerability assessment regularly and that accounts for the boom in the global vulnerability assessment market.
Vulnerability assessment: An introduction
Vulnerability assessment, as the term itself suggests, is the process of detecting and identifying the vulnerabilities in a network, systems and hardware, plus the consequent steps that are taken for the remediation of the same. Thus, vulnerability assessment would involve identifying critical systems on the network, identifying vulnerabilities on the systems and prioritizing remediation process based on the severity of vulnerabilities and the critical nature of the systems.
The most important advantage of conducting vulnerability assessments is that it helps organizations adopt a proactive approach to cybersecurity. It keeps you a step ahead of the cybercriminals and you needn’t wait for a data breach to expose your security flaws. The assessment process would help you find them and you can plug them before anyone exploits them.
An increased awareness regarding cybersecurity plus the ability to prioritize security vulnerabilities are added advantages of conducting network security vulnerability assessments. A vulnerability assessment provides an overall picture of an organization’s security posture and thus helps work out things in a better way so as to ensure improved cybersecurity.
Moreover, IT and security teams in an organization can use the information gathered during the assessment process to do what all is needed to prevent cybersecurity issues in the future as well.
Vulnerability assessment can be done either in-house or by outsourcing it and getting a third-party to do it. Smaller companies might not be able to have a full-fledged in-house team for network vulnerability assessment, especially since it is an elaborate process and requires full-fledged involvement of a team and specialized knowledge as well. Even for many big companies, it’s always good to avoid doing in-house vulnerability assessment and instead depend on the expertise of a specialized provider. Outsourcing vulnerability assessment is good in another way as well since it involves assessing with a fresh perspective of an outsider and sidestepping the familiarity that an in-house team may have. Such familiarity with the systems and the network could even cause the overlooking of some flaws.
Vulnerability assessment: The process
Let’s look at the vulnerability assessment process, step by step.
Step 1- Planning
Planning is important. You have to identify where sensitive data resides in a network and also find out which data and systems are most critical. Determining which networks and systems need to be assessed is what planning is all about; you need to include mobile devices and the cloud too in the list.
Step 2- Scanning
Once the planning is done, scan the system(s) or network. This can be done either manually or by using automated tools. Security flaws can be identified, and false positives filtered out using threat intelligence and vulnerability databases.
Step 3- Analysis
Scanning might provide an overwhelming number of vulnerabilities. A detailed analysis could help narrow down on the vulnerabilities that really matter. The cause, the potential impact and the suggested methods of remediation become clear once the analysis is done. Then, based on the severity of the vulnerability, the data at risk and the likely extent of damage that could be caused, each vulnerability is ranked or rated. Thus, it becomes clear as to which flaw needs urgent redressal and there’s clarity regarding the possible remediation process as well.
Step 4- Remediation
Once the analysis is done and vulnerabilities rated or ranked, the remediation process starts. The flaws are patched, either through a product update or by using other remediation techniques like enhancing security procedures, installing necessary tools etc. Remediation is done after prioritizing flaws based on the analysis. The urgent ones are given top priority, the least important ones which might have lesser or no impact might even be ignored.
Step 5- Repetition
Network security vulnerability assessment is not a one-time thing, it needs to be repeated on a regular basis. The vulnerability assessment could be scheduled to be conducted on a weekly or monthly basis, or at least on a quarterly basis. The reports of earlier assessments could be of great help while doing an assessment. In addition to the regular assessments, additional vulnerability assessments done whenever there are major changes made to the network or systems is good for overall security.
Selecting a service provider or an assessment software
If you are doing in-house vulnerability assessment, you could choose from a wide range of vulnerability assessment software available in the market. Always go for one with a good reputation. Check reviews, make inquiries with friends and experts and then choose a trusted one as it’s all about security.
Similarly, if you are outsourcing your network security vulnerability assessment, you should make proper inquiries about the experience and expertise of the third-party provider you are hiring. Make sure you choose a provider whose services match your requirements. Make sure they give you full and detailed reports and also take perfect care of the compliance aspect.