A vulnerability scanner is a software application that can be used to find security weaknesses in computers, networks, operating systems and other software applications. It’s important to note that the same tool can be used proactively by system administrators and maliciously by cyber attackers. Therefore, it is essential for an organization to identify and remedy any areas of exposure before a hacker can exploit them and gain unauthorized access to critical data.
Types of vulnerability scanners
Vulnerability scanners can range in complexity from free, open-source tools to highly sophisticated enterprise-level systems. Some types include:
- Port scanners – Software applications that probe a server or host for open network ports
- Network enumerators – Programs that retrieve information about users and groups on networked computers
- Network vulnerability scanners – Systems that proactively scan for network vulnerabilities
- Web application security scanners – Programs that communicate with web applications to detect areas of exposure
- Computer worms – Self-replicating computer malware that can be used to find weak points
Benefits of vulnerability scanners
Vulnerability scanning can provide an organization with several key benefits, including:
- Early detection of security threats – Ongoing security assessments make it easier to identify and address vulnerabilities, both from an internal and an external perspective.
- Prompt discovery of unauthorized devices – A new device or system can potentially connect to a network without proper authorization. A vulnerability scanner can identify rogue machines that may threaten system security.
- Current verification of network device inventory – Vulnerability scanning can identify all devices on a network by device type, hardware configuration, operating system, patch level and other information.
A possible downside of vulnerability scanning is that it may inadvertently cause a system to crash if a potential threat is detected during a scan. For this reason, vulnerability scanning is typically scheduled outside of regular business hours. Additionally, because a scan result provides only a “snapshot in time” and new threats can emerge at any time, scanning must be performed on an ongoing basis to be fully effective.
Vology can safeguard your organization’s vital systems
Vology offers a continuous vulnerability scanning service, which is a best-in-class security scanning solution that tests existing equipment, applications and websites for vulnerabilities. If you’d like to learn more about our managed security services, contact us today.