DevSecOpsJan Kahmen5 min read

Vulnerability Scan - Planning and Strategies

Regular or continuous vulnerability scanning requires planning. There are a number of things to consider before implementation.

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A regular vulnerability test increases IT security in your company. That is why vulnerability scanning is an important part of systematic vulnerability management. Although such an approach initially requires a certain amount of initial effort, you will soon benefit from the insights gained: Because they help you eliminate vulnerabilities and strengthen your IT infrastructure.

What is a vulnerability scan?

The vulnerability scanner uses software tools to examine your computer network. In doing so, the vulnerability scanner pursues the goal of uncovering known security vulnerabilities. Then you can fix them as quickly as possible to protect your networks from potential attacks. The basis for such a computer vulnerability test is a vulnerability database. The collected information is compared with this database. The special feature of the vulnerability scan is that you can use it both internally and externally. In external scans, for example, the vulnerability scanner focuses on external IP addresses. With internal scans, on the other hand, the focus is on configuration errors or weak passwords within your network. As an important part of your vulnerability assessment, end-to-end vulnerability scanning can further enhance your security. It can be combined with manual methods, for example, which increase its informative value. Regular penetration testing can also help you improve your vulnerability assessment. However, penetration testing focuses solely on exploiting existing vulnerabilities.

Plan vulnerability scans properly

Whether you plan to conduct vulnerability scanning on a rotational or end-to-end basis, there are several things to consider before implementing the necessary mechanisms.

  • Clarify the framework: The basis for a meaningful analysis is the categorization of your IT infrastructure. Define sensitive and less critical areas. You should also determine whether you will also involve external service providers in the vulnerability scan.
  • Inform the departments: If a vulnerability scan is imminent, you should at least inform internal IT administrators. Notifying affected project teams about the upcoming tests is also a good idea.
  • Define maintenance windows: Since the vulnerability scan may impact your regular operations, you should choose the testing period wisely. The reason for this is that the scan can lead to performance bottlenecks. Therefore, you should test critical systems, mainly during the night.
  • Involve external service providers: If you source parts of your IT infrastructure externally, you need to coordinate with the respective service providers. They can tell you to what extent your project is feasible.

Configure vulnerability scan

For the best possible results, the vulnerability scan must scan your IT landscape for vulnerabilities as completely as possible. Therefore, the right configuration is crucial.

  • Careful configuration: Adapt the environment to be scanned and pay particular attention to individual customizations. This will also help you find specific gaps, not just the general ones.
  • Consider day-to-day business: Vulnerability scanning can quickly have a negative impact on your traffic. It therefore makes sense to consult an expert who can help you implement permanent scans.
  • Scan from the inside, too: Credentialed scans give you the opportunity to identify vulnerabilities in applications. Such vulnerabilities are not always apparent over the network, which is why this additional scan is especially important.
  • Passive scanning: Systems that are proprietary or critical often cannot participate in vulnerability scanning. In particular, embedded systems and production control systems fall into this category. However, you can still provide the security you want for your network with a passive scan.

Evaluate vulnerability scan correctly

Once you have the results from the vulnerability scanner, start evaluating and remediating the findings. Providers of managed services in cyber security also perform this task. Of course, this is only if you rely on external resources.

  • Analyze, prioritize and take action: The amount of information provided by vulnerability scanning is usually immense. To effectively evaluate the data, you should rely on the expert knowledge and experience of your administrators. They can help you prioritize the results in a targeted manner. It's also a good idea to consult security incident response experts.
  • Establish vulnerability management: An initial vulnerability scan will provide you with important insights. However, the more often you perform it, the greater its benefit. The trends and comparisons you identify allow you to make predictions about future problems. In this way, you can increase your IT security with foresight. Ideally, you should supplement your vulnerability management with regular penetration tests and a bug bounty program. In this way, you increase the security of your IT security comprehensively and in the long term.

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