Every organization or company is susceptible to cyber-attacks, and a good vulnerability assessment would make your infrastructure more secure.
The vulnerability assessment consists of an automatic analysis designed to identify, classify and prioritize possible vulnerabilities in the IT systems of an organization or company. These assessments are carried out using standard scanning systems that will help identify, classify and prioritize; and immediately address any vulnerabilities that exist in a system. All this, in order to reduce the risk of exposure of a company or organization to an acceptable level.
It is important to note that there are large companies or organizations that tend to be attacked more frequently; therefore, they are obliged to develop stronger and more rigorous analysis routines; in order to protect their structures.
Why is it so important?
In every system or corporate environment, there are security flaws or weaknesses that can be used by crackers to break into or illegally access a company or system.
The importance of these analyses lies in the fact that thanks to them it is possible to identify the weak points of a system, in order to prevent malicious users from discovering them. The identification of these weak points, whether in the security of a system or in specific applications; is used as a parameter to evaluate certain risks and promote changes in the environment, seeking to adopt an effective solution to mitigate these risks; as well as to establish a more secure structure.
On the other hand, vulnerability analyzes are part of a series of requirements. There are international regulations and standards that require companies to periodically conduct a vulnerability assessment. In order to safeguard customer and employee data.
According to the Trustwave Global Security Report 2019, among its studied statistics are that:
- All web applications are vulnerable to attacks.
- All applications have at least one vulnerability.
- Eleven: is the average number of vulnerabilities that exist for each application.
- Compared with 2018, the number of vulnerabilities reported in applications has increased exponentially.
All these statistics have their origin in the increase in the number of users of web applications; in addition to the high number of these in the market.
Finally, these analyses contribute to the understanding of how a company is technologically structured; they also help to mature the environment or system in terms of information security.
Stages of a vulnerability assessment
Vulnerability assessment consist of two main stages.
The first stage consists of creating profiles in order to detect and locate weaknesses in the system; which can range from incorrect configurations by the programmer to highly complex defects that compromise the operation of an application.
The second stage involves the preparation of reports recording and detailing the vulnerabilities foun; then ordering immediate remediation and keeping track of what needs to be done if the failure recurs in the future.
As for the profiles that can be used to assess the vulnerabilities of a system, there are two of them whose use may vary according to the type of application and the needs of the developer:
- The Dynamic Application Security Test (DAST): is a technique used to identify security defects by feeding fault conditions; thus finding vulnerabilities in real time. This logic focuses on subjecting web applications to computational stress conditions in order to achieve possible defects.
- The Static Application Security Test (SST): is another vulnerability analysis in which a deep analysis of the code of an application is made in order to find security defects; but in this case the program does not run.
Both processes have different purposes and uses when the vulnerability assessment is applied. While SST is used to identify serious vulnerabilities such as malicious scripts or SQL injection; DAST identifies critical bugs through external penetration testing while applications are running.
When is it necessary to apply this technique?
Any system or organization, regardless of its size, can benefit from conducting a vulnerability assessment. Companies need to be able to identify and correct all or most of the weaknesses in a system before they can be exploited by malicious third parties.
All of these assessments can be carried out periodically; to ensure that you receive continuous updates on the status of your information security; in addition to remaining compliant with security standards where applicable.
Differences between Penetration Test and Vulnerability Assessment.
Although both studies have the purpose of studying the weaknesses of a system, both have certain differences in terms of the way, process and conditions in which the test is carried out.
Penetration testing is a proactive, aggressive, and systematic approach that simulates an invasion or cyber attack on an IT infrastructure in order to identify vulnerabilities.
One of the main differences between the penetration test and the vulnerability assessment is that the latter reports about the vulnerabilities detected by the scanning system. This scan analyzes security systems in order to detect weaknesses and recommend measures to correct the failure and reduce or eliminate risks.
Another difference is in the degree of automation, while the vulnerability assessment is a completely automatic process, the penetration test is a combination of both manual and automated techniques.
The third and final difference is the choice of professional staff. While a vulnerability assessment only involves automated tests without interference from any external agent, the penetration test requires a high level of qualified personnel since the pen test is a highly intensive and manual process.