A vulnerability assessment is the process of defining, identifying, classifying and prioritizing vulnerabilities in computer systems, applications and network infrastructures and providing the organization doing the assessment with the necessary knowledge, awareness and risk background to understand the threats to its environment and react appropriately.
Because security vulnerabilities can enable hackers to access IT systems and applications, it is essential for enterprises to identify and fix weaknesses before they can be exploited. A comprehensive vulnerability assessment along with a management program can help companies improve the security of their systems.
Vulnerability assessments depend on discovering different types of system or network vulnerabilities, which means the assessment process includes using a variety of tools, scanners and methodologies to identify vulnerabilities, threats and risks.
Some of the different types of vulnerability assessment scans include the following:
- Host-based scans are used to locate and identify vulnerabilities in servers, workstations or other network hosts. This type of scan usually examines ports and services that may also be visible to network-based scans, but it offers greater visibility into the configuration settings and patch history of scanned systems.
- Wireless network scans of an organization’s Wi-Fi networks usually focus on points of attack in the wireless network infrastructure. In addition to identifying rogue access points, a wireless network scan can also validate that a company’s network is securely configured.
- Network-based scans are used to identify possible network security attacks. This type of scan can also detect vulnerable systems on wired or wireless networks.
- Application scans can be used to test websites in order to detect known software vulnerabilities and erroneous configurations in network or web applications.
- Database scans can be used to identify the weak points in a database so as to prevent malicious attacks, such as SQL injection attacks.