What you need to know to reinforce your network’s weak spots.

While it’s important to link business networks to the Internet for the free exchange of information, a Net connection also opens the door to potential security breaches by malicious attackers. Fortunately, there’s a way to protect your network’s susceptible areas. Vulnerability scanning utilizes technology that seeks out security flaws and tests systems for weak points. Most scanning systems generate a report of their findings so that a business can use the information to tighten its network’s security. Though it usually refers to the practice of scanning Internet-linked networks, vulnerability scanning can also be applied to system audits conducted on internal networks that assess the threats posed by rogue software or malicious employees.

Many enterprises only perform vulnerability scanning as part of an overall security audit – perhaps as infrequently as once a year. This is a big mistake; not only do networks and network connections get updated far more frequently, but new vulnerabilities are discovered weekly. For a larger organization, it’s important to make vulnerability scanning a part of a regular security analysis with much more frequent scanning.

Soft Spots

Attackers looking to gain easy access to business networks use a variety of different techniques. Yet one characteristic all attackers have in common is their desire to search for a network’s weak points – its soft spots – which they can then use to launch invasions with minimal effort.

Just as the average burglar looks for an unlocked home door, or a car thief scans vehicles for one with a key left in the ignition, an attacker may examine multiple networks to find the one that provides fast and simple access. This proclivity poses a unique challenge for network administrators who, in order to combat inquisitive attackers, must begin to think like an attacker.

Every new update to system and server software brings the potential for new vulnerabilities along with whatever improvements are delivered. And while these vulnerabilities are often found by teams seeking to strengthen and eliminate these vulnerabilities, hackers and malicious attackers receive these reports and generate invasions as fast as they are made, so new vulnerabilities crop up continually.

Scanner Types

The are three major types of vulnerability scanners that businesses can use to find network soft spots:

  • Network Scanner: General-purpose scanner that scours networks for potential vulnerabilities.
  • Port Scanner: Software that is designed to search a network for open ports that attackers could use as illicit entry points.
  • Web Application Security Scanner: Enables businesses to conduct ongoing risk assessments to identify the vulnerability of Web applications to hostile attacks.

The Bottom Line

According to the best security practices unit of the Yankee Group Research Inc., a Boston-based technology advisory firm, organizations should perform vulnerability management on at least a daily or weekly basis. Make sure your business is secure by following their advice.

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