To build and keep a strong relationship with customers and clients, businesses must keep their networks safe and protect the data of their employees and customers from being stolen. A high level of security can only be achieved through a comprehensive understanding of cybersecurity vulnerabilities. The global cyber security market is estimated to touch USD 266.2 billion by the year 2027. This shows how important it is to know how to protect your systems from internal and external cyberattacks on hardware, software, or networks and to know how they work. This blog dives deep into vulnerability analysis, its relevance to an organization, and how it can be done to reap the maximum benefits.
What is Vulnerability Analysis?
Vulnerability analysis is the process that companies use to look at all of the possible security flaws in their information systems in a planned way. Vulnerability analysis methods evaluate a system to identify any existing vulnerabilities, rate their severity, and provide suggestions for mitigating them.
The vulnerability analysis process can involve both manual and automated techniques based on the scope of the analysis to achieve comprehensive coverage. Vulnerability analysis is risk-based and can be performed at all levels, such as network-based, host-based, and application-based.
Organizations of all sizes can greatly benefit from vulnerability analysis, but big enterprises will derive the maximum advantage from the process. Miscreants constantly find loopholes to gain access to systems, applications, or even the entire network. With a powerful vulnerability analysis process in place, organizations can immediately discover new vulnerabilities and remediate the shortcomings before they can be exploited.
Importance of Vulnerability Analysis
Vulnerability analysis helps companies find flaws in their hardware, software, and supporting infrastructure before they are exploited by hackers. The most common types of vulnerabilities are:
- A bug in software code or a flaw in the design that can be exploited to gain access to the network infrastructure and cause harm
- A loophole in security protocols or a weakness in internal mechanisms which, when exploited, results in a security breach
- Data breaches occur due to accidental or deliberate exposure of information by an insider to an external source.
Vulnerability analysis and patching are always going on because every year there are thousands of new threats. An effective vulnerability management system addresses high-priority vulnerabilities first. It must have the processes and tools in place to identify and remediate the most critical threats as and when they arise.
Types of Vulnerability Analysis
At the moment, automated scanning tools are used in vulnerability analysis to find different types of system and network vulnerabilities. The main categories of vulnerability analysis types used to test various environments are:
This type of vulnerability analysis includes the examination of all host machines. critical servers, network hosts, and workstations. Open ports and services are scanned, configuration settings are checked, and patches are applied to the scanned systems.
This comprises an analysis of the various protocols and policies that prevent unauthorized access to private or public networks or network-based resources. A study showed that around 84% of companies have critical vulnerabilities in their external network. Network analysis can also identify security issues in the networks and detect vulnerable machines on wired and wireless networks.
Wireless network analysis
A wireless network analysis of a company’s WiFi network is used to spot security flaws in its wireless network infrastructure. Apart from pinpointing the rogue access points, wireless network scans can verify the security of the company’s network configuration.
Statistics show that almost one-in-ten vulnerabilities are high-risk in internet-based applications. The front-end code and static or dynamic source code of web applications are scanned to detect any security vulnerabilities. This analysis is done using automated scanning tools.
This involves the analysis of databases for security risks, and misconfigurations, the identification of rogue databases, unsafe development, and test environments, and the segregation of sensitive data to bolster data security.
Steps in the Vulnerability Analysis Process
- Preparation, asset identification, and discovery
The preparation for vulnerability analysis involves deciding the goals of the process. Then, you will need to identify what assets need to be scanned. Not all assets are easy to discover due to their invisibility in the digital infrastructure. Some assets that may need to be discovered are:
- Mobile devices such as smartphones and laptops since they constantly disconnect/reconnect from their ports and work from remote locations
- IoT devices that may be a part of company infrastructure but connected mainly to mobile networks
- Cloud servers are set up without the knowledge of the IT department.
Once these assets are discovered, their access controls and security features must be analyzed. In addition, operating systems, software, and any sensitive data on them must be identified to be well aware of probable threat scenarios.
This is the critical stage in vulnerability analysis, where the teams must examine all vulnerabilities discovered and prioritize them depending upon many factors, such as:
- Threat severity score returned by the vulnerability database
- The magnitude of the impact of a potential attack on the business
- The sensitivity and confidentiality of the data in question
- The time from when the vulnerability has not been detected
- The availability of a security patch and the resources needed to deploy it.
Prioritizing vulnerabilities helps eliminate false positives and saves valuable time for the security teams.
- Vulnerability testing
Vulnerability testing is performed to recognize the known security threats in a business network and chart out the steps to fix them. Since information about most of these vulnerabilities and vulnerable software is in the public domain, the security teams can leverage the data to pinpoint specific devices and software in the infrastructure that may be insecure. Vulnerability scanning typically collects information on open ports, running operations, configuration settings, and software versions. This information can help identify any common vulnerabilities.
Additionally, scanners may perform probes of specific vulnerabilities to identify weaknesses in usernames, passwords, command injection, or cross-site scripting. Vulnerability tests can run for several hours, depending on the type of scan and size of the target application.
- Reporting and remediation
The vulnerability assessment report is a centralized report showcasing all vulnerabilities discovered in key assets with a plan to redress them. Typically, a vulnerability analysis report will have:
- Listing of the vulnerabilities along with their ranks from mild to medium or high-risk
- Detailed information about the vulnerability, including the date of discovery, the systems affected, potential plan if exploited by hackers, and the plan to fix it.
In most cases, a publicly accessible security patch is used to correct vulnerabilities that are detected, but sometimes a configuration change and some other fixes may be necessary as well. After applying the fix, the system must be re-scanned to ensure that the vulnerability has been addressed and to determine whether the patch has introduced any new security issues.
- Continued vulnerability analysis
Vulnerability analysis cannot be a one-time exercise. Vulnerability tests provide a bird’s-eye view of the vulnerabilities prevalent in an organization’s infrastructure only at a given moment in time that is subject to change. With new systems being added to the network and configurations changing, new vulnerabilities may consequently arise. According to a vulnerability survey by the Poneman Institute, 60% of data breaches were due to unpatched vulnerabilities. Because vulnerabilities change over time, analyzing, managing, and installing patches must be done all the time.
According to a Fortune Business Insights report, the value of the information security market is expected to reach $376.32 billion by 2029. It must be incorporated into the software development process as part of the integration and deployment pipeline to get the most out of your vulnerability analysis process. This lets the security teams find security flaws in the system early in the SDLC, so they don’t have to make patches for vulnerabilities in code that have already been released. This saves time and money.
Some of the drawbacks of vulnerability analysis are as follows.
● Vulnerability scanning tools may not unearth all vulnerabilities
● There may be some false positives from the vulnerability scanning
● The tool must be constantly updated
Typically, the members of the security team, operations team, and development team of an organization perform vulnerability analysis.
You can choose a vulnerability assessment tool based on its speed, quality, compatibility, user experience, support, and compliance.