Security vulnerability assessment ensures timely troubleshooting of security flaws before they harm business IT infrastructure.
The 21st century’s trend for business informatization leaves enterprises almost no chance for IT-free operation. Hardly any company functions without an integrated information system or smart devices that are capable of enhancing business output and customer experience. Business owners savor numerous benefits of digital solutions through their management may be quite tricky. In addition to obvious advantages, exploiting information systems is linked to some challenges. Among them is cybersecurity which has become a cornerstone for all integrated IT solutions. With the growing number of cyber crimes, network security is becoming a top priority for business owners. The Microsoft Digital Defense Report 2022 revealed alarming numbers – the cases of cyberattacks on the digital infrastructure of businesses have increased by 20% over the past year. Thus, to eliminate weaknesses in IT systems that can be exploited by cybercriminals for fraudulent purposes, one should conduct a security vulnerability assessment.
What is a vulnerability?
Despite the growing potential of AI and GPT’s astonishing capability to code, it’s still people whose labor is present in all the stages of IT-product development. It often happens that human mistakes occur in code, which then makes an asset vulnerable to hackers’ intervention. In other words, security vulnerabilities are flaws in an information system arising from the misconduct of security procedures, bugs in coding technology, lack of protective measures, outdated software, and others. Thus, known vulnerabilities are generally classified into four types:
- network vulnerabilities – gaps in hardware or software security (insecure Wi-Fi network or misconfigured firewalls);
- system vulnerabilities – weaknesses exploited to interfere in devices powered by a certain OS (Denial of Service attacks, default superuser accounts, and hidden backdoor programs);
- human vulnerabilities – user errors that allow access to sensitive data (clicking phishing links or using outdated software);
- process vulnerabilities – lack of security measures or their insufficiency (weak passwords or broken authentication).
Cross-site scripting, SQL injection, cross-site request forgery, and security misconfiguration are among the most common examples of known vulnerabilities.
It’s practically impossible to find any information system that has zero amount of vulnerabilities. They do exist in business networks regardless of the industry, size, revenue, and other factors. On average, there are 6 vulnerabilities per asset. Timely detection and troubleshooting reduce risks of threats to the system that attracts attackers with their weaknesses.
Security vulnerabilities put a company’s reputation at risk as they have the potential to result in data leaks and data breaches. The loss of sensitive data inevitably leads to the loss of customer trust. The elimination of such consequences obviously takes time and money. Thus, scanning for vulnerabilities, evaluating them, and taking remediation measures help to prevent cyberattacks and protect the information infrastructure.
The stage begins with the segmentation of the entire IT infrastructure into assets to be analyzed. Business owners often have budget restrictions or time frames that do not allow them to scan every block of their IT environment on a regular basis. Under these circumstances, it is important to figure out the assets that are most crucial to business or those requiring immediate revision. IT assets include enterprise applications (OS, software, databases), network infrastructure, hardware, and any IT equipment belonging to the company.
After pinpointing the assets to be evaluated, they are ranked based on possible vulnerability levels. Analyzing the target segments from the attacker’s point of view helps to set the right priorities before conducting a check. In order to initiate the assessment procedure, specialists choose tools and methods that are appropriate to each particular case.
In the course of the assessment process, vendors apply manual or automated tools to check target segments of the system for security flaws and their sources. As soon as the scan detects vulnerabilities, they are further assigned a severity level. Based on the information obtained from the assessment report, professionals can prioritize the problems that need more urgent addressing. In fact, quality scanning gives accurate characteristics of vulnerabilities and suggests time frames for them to be tackled.
Remediation, mitigation, or acceptance
The most critical flaws posing a serious threat to the system’s security are subject to urgent elimination. The IT professionals fix them first to prevent possible attacks. However, when there is no opportunity to use the first strategy of tackling the problem, one can resort to its mitigation – reducing the probability of vulnerability exploitation and diminishing its negative consequences. In case the vulnerability is considered to be low-risk, one can decide to accept it and get ready to deal with the consequences of a potential fraudulent act.
A one-time vulnerability assessment is not enough for the secure functioning of the information systems. Scanning IT assets on a continuous basis allows for evaluating the remediation progress and detecting new security gaps.
Needless to say, vulnerability assessment is a complex process that requires certain expenditures from business owners and a high level of expertise from IT professionals. But as seen from the above, it serves as a kind of investment in one’s business reputation and builds strong protection against fraudulent acts.