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Vulnerability Assessment

Vulnerability Assessment is a process of evaluating security risks in software systems to reduce the probability of threats. The purpose of vulnerability testing is to reduce intruders or hackers' possibility of getting unauthorized access to systems.

The vulnerability is any mistake or weakness in the system's security procedures, design, implementation, or internal control that may violate the system's security policy.

A vulnerability assessment process may involve automated and manual techniques with varying degrees of rigor and an emphasis on comprehensive coverage. Using a risk-based approach, vulnerability assessments may target different technology layers, the most common being host, network, and application-layer assessments.

Vulnerability assessments provide security teams and other stakeholders with the information they need to analyze and prioritize potential remediation risks in the proper context. Vulnerability assessments are a critical component of the vulnerability management and IT risk management lifecycles, helping protect systems and data from unauthorized access and data breaches.

Organizations of any size, or even individuals who face an increased risk of cyberattacks, can benefit from some form of vulnerability assessment. Still, large enterprises and other organizations subject to ongoing attacks will benefit most from vulnerability analysis. Because security vulnerabilities can enable hackers to access IT systems and applications, enterprises need to identify and remediate weaknesses before being exploited.

A comprehensive vulnerability assessment, along with a management program, can help companies improve the security of their systems.

Types of Vulnerability Assessments

Vulnerability assessment applies various methods, tools, and scanners to determine grey areas, threats, and risks. Everything depends on how well the given systems' weakness is discovered to attend to that specific need. Below are the different types of vulnerability assessment, such as:

1. Network-based scans

It helps identify possible network security attacks. The scan helps zero-in the vulnerable systems on wired or wireless networks.

2. Host-based scans

Host-based scans are used to locate and identify vulnerabilities in servers, workstations or other network hosts. This type of scan usually examines ports and services that may also be visible to network-based scans. It also provides excellent visibility into the configuration settings and patch history of scanned systems.

3. Wireless network scans

Wireless network infrastructure is scanned to identify vulnerabilities. It helps in validating a company's network.

4. Application Scans

It is used to test websites to discover all known software vulnerabilities. It also identifies security vulnerabilities in web applications and their source code by automated scans on the front-end or static or dynamic source code analysis.

5. Database Scans

Database Scans aid in identifying grey areas in a database to prevent vicious attacks by cybercriminals. It is identifying rogue databases or insecure environments and classifying sensitive data across an organization's infrastructure.

Vulnerability Assessments Benefits

Vulnerability assessments allow security teams to apply a consistent, comprehensive, and clear approach to identifying and resolving security threats and risks. This has several benefits to an organization, such as:

  • Early and consistent identification of threats and weaknesses in IT security.
  • Remediation actions to close any gaps and protect sensitive systems and information.
  • Meet cybersecurity compliance and regulatory needs for areas like HIPAA and PCI DSS.
  • Protect against data breaches and other unauthorized access.
  • A vulnerability assessment provides an organization with information on the security weaknesses in its environment.
  • It provides direction on how to assess the risks associated with those weaknesses. This process offers the organization a better understanding of its assets, security flaws and overall risk.
  • The process of locating and reporting the vulnerabilities provides a way to detect and resolve security problems by ranking the vulnerabilities before someone or something can exploit them.
  • In this process, Operating systems, Application Software and Network are scanned to identify vulnerabilities, including inappropriate software design, insecure authentication, etc.

Vulnerability Assessment Process

Below is the step by step vulnerability assessment process to identify the system vulnerability.

Vulnerability Assessment
  1. Goals and Objective: Define the goals and objectives of Vulnerability Analysis.
  2. Scope: While performing the Assessment and Test, the assignment's Scope needs to be clearly defined. The following are the three possible scopes that exist, such as:
    • Black Box Testing:It is a software testing method in which software applications' functionalities are tested without knowing internal code structure, implementation details and internal paths.
      Black Box Testing mainly focuses on the input and output of software applications, and it is entirely based on software requirements and specifications. It is also known as Behavioral Testing.
    • White Box Testing: White box testing is a software testing technique in which internal structure, design and coding of software are tested to verify the flow of input-output and also improve design, usability and security.
      In white-box testing, code is visible to testers, so it is also called Clear box testing, Open box testing, transparent box testing, Code-based testing and Glass box testing.
    • Grey Box Testing:It is a software testing technique to test a software product or application with partial knowledge of its internal structure. The purpose of grey box testing is to search and identify the defects due to improper code structure or improper applications.
      In this process, context-specific errors that are related to web systems are commonly identified. It increases the testing coverage by concentrating on all of the layers of any complex system.
      Grey box testing is the combination of both Black Box Testing and White Box Testing.
  3. Information Gathering: Obtaining as much information about the IT environment, such as Networks, IP Address, Operating System Version, etc. It applies to all the three types of Scopes, such as Black Box Testing, White Box Testing, and Grey Box Testing.
  4. Vulnerability Detection: In this step, vulnerability scanners scan the IT environment and identify the vulnerabilities.
  5. Information Analysis and Planning: It will analyze the identified vulnerabilities to devise a plan for penetrating the network and systems.

How to do Vulnerability Assessment

Following is the steps to do a Vulnerability Assessment, such as:

Vulnerability Assessment

Step 1) Setup: We need to start by determining which systems and networks will be assessed, identifying where any sensitive data resides, and which data and systems are most critical. Configure and update the tools.

Step 2) Test Execution: A packet is the data routed unit between an origin and the destination. When any file, such as an e-mail message, HTML file, Uniform Resource Locator (URL) request is sent from one place to another on the internet, the TCP layer of TCP/IP divides the file into several "chunks" for efficient routing. Each of these chunks will be uniquely numbered and will include the Internet address of the destination. These chunks are called packets.

  • Run the captured data packet.
  • When all the packets have arrived, they will be reassembled into the original file by the TCP layer at the receiving end while running the assessment tools.

Step 3) Vulnerability Analysis: Now define and classify network or System resources and assign priority to the resources (low, medium, high). Identify potential threats to each resource and develop a strategy to deal with the most prioritized problems. Define and implement ways to minimize the consequences if an attack occurs.

Step 4) Remediation: The vulnerability assessment results to patch key flaws or problems, whether simply via a product update or through something more involved, from installing new security tools to an enhancement of security procedures. In step 3, we prioritized the problems that ensure the most urgent flaws are handled first. It's also worth noting that some problems may have so little impact that they may not be worth the cost and downtime required for remediation.

Step 5) Repeat: Vulnerability assessments need to be conducted regularly, monthly or weekly, as any single assessment is only a report of that moment in time. These reports give a strong sense of how security posture has developed.

Vulnerability Testing Methods

Here are the following vulnerability testing methods, such as:

  1. Active Testing: Inactive Testing, a tester introduces new test data and analyzes the results. During the testing process, the testers create a mental model of the process, and it will grow further during the interaction with the software under test.
    While doing the test, the tester will actively find out the new test cases and new ideas. That's why it is called Active Testing.
  2. Passive Testing: It is used to monitoring the result of running software under test without introducing new test cases or data
  3. Network Testing: Network Testing is the process of measuring and recording the current state of network operation over some time.
    Testing is mainly done for predicting the network operating under load or find out the problems created by new services. We need to Test the following Network Characteristics, such as:
    • Utilization levels
    • Number of Users
    • Application Utilization
  4. Distributed Testing: Distributed Tests are applied for testing distributed applications. These applications are working with multiple clients simultaneously. Testing a distributed application means testing its client and server parts separately, but by using a distributed testing method, we can test them all together.
    The test parts will interact with each other during the Test Run.
    This makes them synchronized properly. Synchronization is one of the most crucial points in distributed testing.

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