There are many aspects to managing vulnerabilities in today’s complex IT environments. Performing security assessments is a popular way of identifying existing vulnerabilities, which then allows for proper mitigation. In this article we look at the differences between vulnerability scanning, penetration testing and red teaming, three security assessments that are popular, but that should be performed with care, in order to achieve best results.
Deciding which security assessment to perform depends a lot on an organization’s security maturity level, and the best results will be achieved by performing them exactly in the order listed – let’s see why.
Vulnerability scanning (assessments) is something that every organisation should be doing on a regular basis. This is the first, and the most basic activity in managing vulnerabilities: the goal of a vulnerability scanner is to find lowhanging fruit and known vulnerabilities or misconfigurations. Vulnerability scanners will do a great job of enumerating installed patches, finding default accounts and misconfigurations. Modern scanners can also authenticate against target systems (log in), which will allow them to list installed patches and correlate such information with actively obtained data from a scan, thereby reducing false positive reports.
It is recommended that vulnerability scanning is performed regularly in every organisation, preferably with internal tools. The most popular network vulnerability scanners are Rapid7 Nexpose, Tenable Nessus and Qualys. Just keep in mind that these should be used for network scanning, while other, more specialized tools exist for application-level scanning (i.e. for web applications).
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