Oct 29 2015

Vulnerability Assessments Reveal Security Weaknesses

Learn about tools used for these exercises and the insights they can provide.

How confident are you that your network is secure and that hackers aren’t lurking on a server, lying in wait to attack? Many organizations simply don’t have the information required to provide managers with a confident answer to this question.

Vulnerability assessments provide organizations with important insights into their security posture, including a detailed examination of active infections and weaknesses that might allow an attacker to gain a foothold on the network. Security managers can use the results of well-designed assessments to prioritize remediation for areas with the most significant vulnerabilities, enabling the highest possible return on investment. Comprehensive vulnerability assessments engage highly qualified staff using a variety of modern tools.

Vulnerability Tools and Techniques

Vulnerability scanning forms the bread and butter of vulnerability assessments. Active scanning tools probe the network for open ports and vulnerable services running on those ports, providing a detailed listing of identified vulnerabilities. Passive network monitoring tools glean similar information by simply listening to network traffic and watching for the telltale signatures of unpatched or otherwise vulnerable systems. Together, active and passive network vulnerability detection techniques paint a detailed picture of the state of network security that can serve as a roadmap for future remediation efforts.

While network vulnerability scanning provides a valuable look at potential security flaws, those techniques lack the ability to identify active intrusions on a network. That’s where botnet and malware detection techniques come in. These tools watch for the telltale signs of compromised systems, such as command-and-control traffic between botnet-infected systems and their controllers. IT security professionals should use the results provided by these tools to identify systems that cyberattackers are actively exploiting for malicious purposes.

Finally, penetration testing is the gold standard for vulnerability assessment. In a penetration test, highly qualified attackers attempt to breach a network using the full arsenal of tools available to hackers. These tests provide clear-cut, indisputable results. If a penetration tester successfully breaks into a network, then it’s difficult for the IT staff to argue that the organization doesn’t have IT security weaknesses that require remediation.

Assembling the Vulnerability Assessment Team

Some organizations choose to build their own internal vulnerability assessment teams, but that option is typically limited to large enterprises with a significant number of IT staff members dedicated to information security. Conducting security assessments requires deep security knowledge, and many organizations simply don’t have the resources to keep these experts on staff on a full-time basis. What’s more, network vulnerability monitoring, botnet and malware detection, and penetration testing require extensive tools that an organization may not wish to purchase.

Many organizations choose instead to obtain vulnerability assessments from a third party. Using outside service providers enables them to work with deeply skilled staff who perform vulnerability assessments all the time. These services also provide access to cutting-edge tools without the associated equipment purchases or software licensing fees. Finally, using a third-party assessment group provides an unbiased view of enterprise security, performed independently of the team that designed and implemented the organization’s security controls.

CDW provides a wide range of security risk assessment services, ranging from a complimentary CDW Threat Check security assessment to detailed penetration tests supporting enterprise compliance efforts. 


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