Scanning your networks and software for security vulnerabilities is essential for keeping your organisation secure, but it’s not a perfect solution.
It will help you identify weaknesses in your system – with new ones being discovered all the time or introduced as a result of system changes – but it only works when combined with other practices and when you have a solid understanding of the information security landscape.
Let’s take a deeper look into the advantages and disadvantages of vulnerability scanning.
Identify vulnerabilities before cyber criminals do
Many cyber attacks are automated, and involve criminals searching for and exploiting known vulnerabilities.
In other words, they’re not creating a vulnerability or finding an obscure weakness through their expert hacking skills. They’re simply looking for vulnerabilities in the same way as anyone with the right scanning software could.
So when organisations use the same tools, they are able to discover weaknesses and fix them before anyone has a chance to exploit them.
Define the level of risk on your systems
Conducting regular vulnerability scans will help you determine the overall effectiveness of your security measures.
If you’re inundated with vulnerabilities, that’s a sign that your systems or software are severely flawed and need to be rethought.
Save time and money
Automated scans are easy to repeat and will save you money in the long term.
That’s because vulnerability scanning mitigates the risks of a data breach, which will come with a range of costs, including remediation, the loss of customers as a result of reputational damage and fines.
Likewise, if you have cyber insurance, you will need to conduct regular vulnerability scans to prove that you were addressing your cyber security responsibilities and to receive your pay-out.
Meet data protection requirements
Vulnerability scanning is not explicitly required by the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), but the Regulation does require organisations that process personal data to ensure that they have implemented appropriate technical and organisational security measures – which includes identifying vulnerabilities.
The international standard for information security, ISO 27001, also requires organisations to take similar steps, and the PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) includes vulnerability scanning in its list of requirements.
You won’t find every vulnerability
Vulnerability scans aren’t perfect. Like antivirus software, they rely on a database of known weaknesses and are only as good as the latest update.
Conducting scans using outdated or inferior tools therefore means you are liable to miss vulnerabilities and get a false sense of security.
Even with the latest technology, there will almost certainly be weaknesses that the scanner won’t pick up. This might be because it’s newly discovered or because the vulnerability is too complex to be exploited – and thus detected – by an automated tool.
It’s not always easy to work out what the results of a vulnerability scan mean. For example, the tool might mistakenly flag something that looks suspicious as a vulnerability when it isn’t.
As such, without someone with the expertise to interpret the results, it will take a lot longer to determine the true nature of your security posture. Likewise, if you’re unable to filter out false positives, the tool will continue to generate inaccurate results.
Make the most of vulnerability scanning
Although vulnerability scanning is never a perfect solution, it’s an essential process – and there are ways of maximising the benefits while minimising the drawbacks.
For example, our Vulnerability Scan service contains the benefits of an automated tool and the expertise of security professional.
The tool will scan for thousands of weaknesses each month, and you’ll receive a detailed vulnerability assessment that gives you a breakdown of the weak spots that you must address.