What Is Vulnerability Scanning?

Many organizations store and manage data on their network. Companies must maintain network security to safeguard their data against any vulnerabilities. An organization’s security team must protect the network against unauthorized information access that hackers may exploit. Vulnerability scanning is the simplest way to anticipate unauthorized system or network access.

But what is vulnerability scanning? Vulnerability scanning is an automated security testing technique to identify an application, security, and network vulnerabilities comprehensively. It is also referred to as “vuln scanning.” Vulnerability scanning involves more than simply finding network vulnerabilities; it necessitates resolving issues and altering the procedures to confirm that vulnerabilities are managed promptly.

What is vulnerability scanning, and why is it essential for organizations? Vulnerability scanning is essential for an organization’s security posture assessment as it helps analyze its existing security controls and examine newly discovered or altered security vulnerabilities.

What is vulnerability scanning, and who performs it? Vulnerability scanning is performed by:

  • Organization’s security team or IT department.
  • Third-party security service providers, like ASV(Approved Scanning Vendor).

Attackers may also perform vulnerability scans to gain access to an organization’s network.

Importance Of Vulnerability Scans

Organizations of all sizes are susceptible to vulnerabilities. As operating systems modify, new vulnerabilities may be deployed and are continuously being developed. Cybercriminals access unprotected sensitive data, systems, and networks using automated techniques to identify known vulnerabilities and exploit them. Automated tools make it easier to exploit vulnerabilities because security breaches are affordable, quick, and random, putting every organization with an internet presence in danger.

Even a single vulnerability can allow an attacker to gain network access. Hence, vulnerability scans ensure secure systems for organizations. Taking measures to fix vulnerabilities is crucial because if an operating system, software, or firmware is not updated to the most recent versions, the exploitable vulnerabilities of the operating system will expose the organization to serious security risks. Furthermore, most cyber invasions go undetected, which worsens the situation. Globally, the average duration between the beginning of a security breach and its detection is 24 days.

Some businesses have cloud-based or network vulnerabilities or flaws in application security testing, web servers, routers, operating systems, firewalls, software installed, printers, etc. Hackers can target these from the moment their infrastructure is established because of inherent security holes in technologies or systems. Ineffective security patches, weak security postures, and system changes without the necessary security protocol updates and other security controls can expose organizations to threats.

Compromised systems result in costly security breach penalties and damage brand reputation. Testing the organization’s infrastructure through vulnerability scans minimizes such security weaknesses and crises. Routine detection, prioritization, and remediation of critical vulnerabilities can help eliminate sensitive data breaches and minimize the security risk posed by an organization. Hence, routine vulnerability scans are essential for businesses to reduce their likelihood of being compromised and hacked.

How Does Vulnerability Scanning Work?

Vulnerability scanners work in an automated, effective manner. A vulnerability scan identifies network vulnerabilities or analyzes systems that have known vulnerabilities. Vulnerability scanners can detect thousands of internal and external vulnerabilities and report known ones.

The vulnerability platform employs various strategies and methods based on the type of vulnerability scan to generate a device response from inside the target scope. The vulnerability scanner will then compare the outcomes to a vulnerability database based on the device responses and designate severity levels or risk ratings accordingly.

Vulnerability scanners allow the scanning of every network port to monitor for credential breaches and malicious services and applications. The vulnerability scanning tool reports missing service packs or security measures and analyzes and monitors malware, remote or unauthorized access, and coding defects.

Vulnerability Management Process

The vulnerability management program utilizes vulnerability scanning tools to help security teams identify network security vulnerabilities through the following steps:

  • Identify vulnerabilities.
  • Assess the risk posed by identified vulnerabilities.
  • Remediation of identified vulnerabilities.
  • Reporting and addressing vulnerabilities.

Identify Vulnerabilities

A security professional can identify vulnerabilities considering the potential of a vulnerability scanning tool to:

  • Trace and recognize network devices, software, and open ports.
  • Recognize and gather information from known vulnerability databases and the system.
  • Match this sensitive data to a minimum known vulnerability database.

IT or security teams can control the intrusiveness of vulnerability scanners. Controlling the aggressiveness of network vulnerability scanners is essential, as vulnerability scanners can sometimes damage the network’s functionality while scanning. The vulnerability scans can also minimize bandwidth. However, these problems last temporarily.

Security teams might run vulnerability scans post-work hours to minimize or eliminate these problems. The security team must ensure the scanning of all devices connected to the organization’s network. A team can identify endpoint agents to execute the tools on the organization’s devices and acquire optimum performance by scanning all devices simultaneously or employing flexible vulnerability scanning services.

These vulnerability assessment services track new device connections as they configure with the system. When a new device connects to the operating system, web server, or network, the scanner will immediately scan it for new vulnerabilities.

Assess The Risk Posed By Identified Vulnerabilities

Vulnerability scanning services utilize a comprehensive record of identified vulnerabilities. If too many vulnerabilities exist, mitigating them would be impractical and wasteful. Rather than paying a huge mitigation cost, organizations will ignore that network vulnerability and let a cybercriminal take advantage of the security holes.

Risk assessment notifies the security team about the risk associated with each vulnerability, distinguishing between the greatest and the least worrisome ones. This phase allows the security team to ascertain the following:

  • The seriousness of the security vulnerabilities and their potential effects on the organization’s network.
  • If they can modify existing security measures to lower the exploitation potential.
  • The simplicity with which a potential attacker could exploit vulnerabilities, considering if they can perform it online or need physical access to a network device linked to the system.
  • When vulnerabilities turn out as false positives.

Risk assessment allows the team to identify which vulnerabilities require immediate action and which ones they can disregard.

Remediation Of Identified Vulnerabilities

Vulnerability assessment solutions’ ultimate objective is to correct known vulnerabilities and eliminate any hazards they might present to the organization. Since not all security weaknesses can be fixed immediately, IT administrators implement additional security measures to make it challenging for cybercriminals to misuse exploitable vulnerabilities. While mitigation is not a long-term solution, it is a good approach to minimize threat potential until devising a workable patch to close the network security gap.

The organization might overlook the vulnerability at this point and take no action to thwart an intrusion. It is an effective vulnerability solution because it’s crucial to ensure that there is little threat to the business and that fixing the issue will cost more than the potential harm it might create.

Reporting And Addressing Vulnerabilities

The IT personnel must document the identification and handling of security vulnerabilities to adhere to the standards regulating the firm. The vulnerability scanning tools can create configurable reports that assist the team in understanding which countermeasures are most effective for a certain vulnerability while using the least resources. These reports enable a security professional to keep track of vulnerability patterns as they evolve. The better it understands a certain vulnerability, the better it will be able to protect the systems.

Types Of Vulnerability Scanning

Based on their use cases, network vulnerability is identified using the following types of vulnerability scans:

  • Internal vulnerability scans.
  • External vulnerability scans.
  • Authenticated vulnerability scans.
  • Unauthenticated scans.
  • Environmental scans.
  • Intrusive and non-intrusive scans.

Internal Vulnerability Scans

Internal vulnerability scans analyze and attack an organization’s internal network. An internal vulnerability scan can spot weaknesses that can render you vulnerable to harm after a hacker or malware gains system access. Internal vulnerability scanning allows one to fortify and safeguard systems and applications that external scans often overlook.

External Vulnerability Scans

An external vulnerability scan concentrates on the IT infrastructure areas accessible via the internet or to people and systems outside the internal network. They can be things that are essentially accessible to external clients or users, like:

  • Systems.
  • Websites.
  • Services.
  • Ports.
  • Networks.
  • Applications, etc.

Authenticated Vulnerability Scans

Authenticated scans give vulnerability scanners numerous access privileges to search the internal network for configuration problems, unsecured credentials, and improperly configured applications or databases.

Unauthenticated Scans

Similar to an external vulnerability scan, unauthenticated scans investigate network perimeter flaws.

Environmental Scans

This vulnerability scan considers the environment in which your technology functions. Specialized scans are obtainable for various technological deployments, like websites, cloud-based, IoT, and mobile devices.

Intrusive And Non-Intrusive Scans

Non-intrusive scans pinpoint weakness and notify it for correction. Intrusive scans try to take advantage of vulnerabilities once they are discovered. Employ intrusive scanning cautiously as it may interrupt the operational processes and systems, raising difficulties for the staff and clients and highlighting a vulnerability’s potential danger and effect.

Vulnerability Scanning Tools And Applications

A vulnerability scanner initiates a scanning process that locates and compiles a list of every system linked to a network. Besides user accounts and open ports, it strives to determine the software installed on each device and the operating system.

Vulnerability scanning applications build an inventory and then compare each element with one or more databases of known vulnerabilities. The outcome is a list of every system discovered and recognized on the network, indicating any of those with known vulnerabilities and necessitating remediation.

Vulnerability scanning products are available through a variety of IT security providers, including:

  • Acunetix.
  • Comodo.
  • Core Security.
  • Netsparker.
  • SolarWinds.
  • Rapid7.
  • Qualys.
  • High-Tech Bridge.
  • Tenable.
  • Tripwire.

Open Source Vulnerability Scanners

Apart from proprietary products, a few open-source vulnerability scanners or free variants of premium vulnerability scanners are:

  • Nikto.
  • Aircrack-ng.
  • Nexpose Community.
  • OpenVAS.
  • Retina.
  • Wireshark.

Choosing Suitable Vulnerability Scanning Tools

Prioritize the following factors when determining whether a vulnerability scanning tool is the best fit for your organization:


An organization’s vulnerability management program must include vulnerability assessment, security holes management, and other solutions, ensuring smooth integration with the vulnerability scanner.

Vulnerability Types And Occurrences

The vulnerability scanner must provide high-quality details on defects, security gaps, threat prioritization, and mitigation procedures while accurately detecting all vulnerabilities with the fewest possible false positives and negatives.

Consistency Of Updates

The vulnerability scanner database must regularly update with the most recently identified vulnerabilities.

Serviceable Outcomes

The vulnerability scanning solution must deliver detailed and precise reports that enable organizations to make sound, remedial decisions.

Proper implementation of vulnerability scanning tools allows assessment and identification of a contemporary security risk, giving an organization the required knowledge to take remedial measures, abide by legal requirements, and strengthen the organization’s security posture.

Vulnerability Scanning Vs. Penetration Testing

Although vulnerability scanning and penetration testing are sometimes considered similar, there are significant distinctions between them.

Penetration testing is a thorough investigation involving a physical individual delving into the network complexities to target the security gaps in the systems, as opposed to vulnerability scanning, which involves high-level automated evaluation to search for potential security shortfalls.

A penetration tester scrutinizes in depth to discover the underlying problem of a weakness that permits stored sensitive data or systems accessibility, whereas a vulnerability scan detects vulnerabilities. An automatic scanner might overlook business logic flaws that the pen tester can otherwise detect.

Vulnerability scans can extend from several minutes to hours and can be launched automatically or manually.


Network vulnerability scanners are helpful and essential for a firm to establish a reliable vulnerability management plan. Implementing a security scanner is the first step in defending your business from destructive digital attacks because it alerts security professionals on exploitable vulnerabilities in applications or systems.

Organizations must opt for efficient vulnerability scanning services to establish a top-notch vulnerability management process to protect them from crippling threats or cyberattacks.

Derik Belair

As President and CEO, Derik leads the vision, strategy and growth of Augmentt. Prior to founding Augmentt, Derik was the Vice President at SolarWinds, leading the digital marketing strategy for SolarWinds’ Cloud division. Derik has been working in the channel for over 20 years, starting his career as a channel sales rep at Corel Corp. and eventually becoming the first employee at N-able Technologies in April of 2000.
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