How to conduct a vulnerability assessment (in cybersecurity)

by Vinaya Sheshadri

What is a vulnerability assessment?

At its core, a vulnerability assessment looks for vulnerabilities in your network, system or applications. The process involves defining, searching for, and identifying weaknesses then prioritising them in terms of risk. Informed by contextual data about the organisation, this assessment can provide insights into your cyber threat landscape.

This information will help businesses and organisations understand the performance of their cyber security solutions. Based on the results, you can assess your risk and associated with the identified weaknesses and create a cyber strategy. Knowing what threats are present is the only way to effectively defend against them.

But the first step of any security assessment, is to understand your options and what steps are required. This blog outlines exactly what vulnerability test is and how to complete it.

What are the benefits of a vulnerability assessment?

Everyone is at risk from cyber-attacks and so everyone needs to perform from vulnerability assessments.

Overall, vulnerability analysis helps you find and fix any weaknesses in your security before a hacker does. Conducting searches regularly means you can be proactive; mitigating potential attacks instead of reacting to them in real-time.

Here are some additional benefits:

  • Evaluates the performance of your current security provider and tools
  • Helps guide and inform your cyber security strategy in the future
  • Protect yourself against specific weaknesses and threats
  • You can maintain compliance
  • Stakeholders can be reassured of your security and the safety of their data
  • Avoid the hard and soft costs of a security breach
  • You can use vulnerability assessments to test your remedial measures

Types of Vulnerability Scan

There are various different types of vulnerability assessment or scan. Here are some of the most common:

  • Network scan
  • Wireless-based scan
  • Host-based scan
  • Application-based scan

What happens in the initial assessment?

The initial assessment sets the tone for all the actions taken after. That’s why it’s important to be thorough at this stage and ensure nothing gets missed. You first need to identify and list every device in the organisation. Then you can start the analysis phase.

This involves taking time to assign a likelihood and total impact of a successful threat to each asset. This enables you to prioritise high-risk items, so they get analysed and fixed first.

 How do you conduct a vulnerability scan?

The vulnerability scan analyses your entire cyber environment autonomously. It’s conducted by a tool which runs through a pre-determined list and set of parameters, looking for security issues. It will also consider the associated and relative risk of each of these weaknesses.

What is a system baseline definition? 

Your system baseline is an overview of the scan results. It shows you where you are most vulnerable and what is actively putting you at risk right now.

How do you create a vulnerability assessment report?

While the assessment tool or provider may produce a report, it’s important to update upon these based on your resultant actions. Alongside the identified weakness and its risk level, a report should include the following details:

  • Date discovered
  • Details of the vulnerability
  • Details of systems that were or may be affected by the vulnerability
  • Descriptions of how the vulnerability was remedied
  • Detailed steps of how to repeat this process in the future
  • What next steps and maintenance is needed
  • Recommendations for cyber security measures and mitigation approaches

What are the steps to conducting a successful vulnerability assessment? 

There are several key steps necessary in conducting a vulnerability analysis or assessment:

Identifying and analysing risk

First, the company undertaking the assessment need a list of all your IT assets. This includes everything from desktops to routers. Once this is complete, they can determine the level of potential risk associated with each device.

Create a plan

Outline a plan of action to be agreed by both the assessor and the company in question. Someone on each side should manage this to ensure every task is completed.

Determine the type of scan

Different software or systems have different scan requirements. Choose the best one based on your needs to ensure you fully benefit from this process.

Program the scan

Here you want to define the parameters of the scan. Choose the targets, how in-depth it will be, time, and set up the necessary IP protocols.

Run the scan

The scan will identify the specified targets and then gather more data about their performance.

Evaluate the results

Once the scan is complete it will create a report of its findings. Decide which vulnerabilities are the most exploitable and start here.

Implement your findings

Now the scan is complete it’s up to you to take action against the identified weaknesses. Have the IT and security teams prioritise the gaps by risk, determine the best mitigation approaches for each, and create a timeline of action.

What is container vulnerability?

How can business owners choose a vulnerability scanner?

Vulnerability tools each have different features. Before you begin searching for a solution, outline what your specific objectives and system needs are for this assessment. With a good lot of research and tool comparison, you should be able to find one that works for you.

When it comes to security, however, it is always worth consulting an expert. The difference between a tool that’s right for you and one that isn’t could result in weaknesses being missed. To avoid a potentially substantial security breach, talk to a cyber security advisor or work with a consultant to perform the test.

What is RiverSafe’s approach to vulnerability assessments in cybersecurity?

RiverSafe offer threat intelligence to ensure you’re always aware of your cyber threat landscape. This helps you identify potential risks and deliver timely, actionable intelligence to mitigate them.

We also provide extensive delivery services to ensure your security solutions are in-line with the threats you’re facing. With managed services, resource augmentation, and project management services our expert teams will help you improve and maintain your system security.

To find out more about how we can help, contact us for a free consultation

By Vinaya Sheshadri