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What is a vulnerability scan?
A vulnerability scan aims to draw up security risks and the attack surface by scanning one or several IP addresses or domain names. A vulnerability scan looks for signatures known for previously or currently being associated with vulnerable software. For instance, a vulnerable version of the Microsoft SQL server, a vulnerable Windows 2003 computer or something different that possesses a risk to your company network. If a vulnerable system is hacked, this system can be used as a springboard to access your company network. This might entail that systems which are not connected to the Internet can be reached as well. This is possible if the systems are accessible from the internal network or the network segment which the vulnerable computer is connected to.
Why conduct a vulnerability scan?
A vulnerability scan provides your company with n overview of your various network-connected devices as well as their security-related condition. You gain an overview of your company’s attack surface, and it is a quick and effective way of assessing your company’s current security level.
By employing the results of a vulnerability scan, potential gaps might be closed before, for instance, a hacker with malicious intentions gains access to your system. Following the vulnerability scan your internal IT department will receive a report. The report contains descriptions of the identified vulnerabilities together with suggested solutions for how the vulnerabilities can be attended to, if possible. If it isn’t possible, it will most often be necessary to upgrade a system or remove the vulnerable software, if it isn’t needed.
What are the differences between an internal and external vulnerability scan?
Internal vulnerability scan
An internal vulnerability scan takes place on the internal network. It is recommended that you first map out your network, so that you are familiar with potential network segmentation that could create a misleading conception, if it hasn’t been part of the considerations prior to launching the vulnerability scan. With an internal vulnerability scan we will scan all devices connected to the internal network. This provides you with a complete view of your company’s internal network and its security-related condition.
External vulnerability scan
An external vulnerability scan takes place externally from your company network. Typically, the scan is conducted on IP addresses/domain names accessible from the Internet. This type of scan solely provides insights into what a potential hacker would be able to see, if he/she scanned the network from the Internet, as well as maps out the external attack surface. It is most often services such as websites (http), ssh, vpn, and in some cases rdp and ftp, which are externally accessible. This type of scan would be a good start, if your company is looking for a quick overview of your external attack surface when viewed from the Internet.
Why choose a manual walkthrough of the discovered vulnerabilities?
Even though a vulnerability scan provides you with valuable insights into your company’s security level, it’s always a good idea to manually verify the discovered vulnerabilities and check that they are in fact vulnerable and not just false positives. False positives might occur in vulnerability scans, if, for instance, a piece of software is dependent on several conditions that need to be complied with in order for the software to be vulnerable.
The vulnerability scanner might only detect the software version and not the operational system, which runs the software. If the software is only vulnerable when run on a Windows computer, it will not appear as vulnerable if the underlying system is Linux. By manually verifying the vulnerability you can confirm or deny, whether the software is in fact vulnerable. If the software appears to be vulnerable, it’s a good idea to look into whether the machine has already been compromised. However, this is not part of the manual walkthrough of the vulnerabilities. It solely focuses on verifying the reality of the vulnerabilities.
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