Cybersecurity Audit Basics: Guide to Vulnerability Assessments
Regularly evaluating your business’ cybersecurity program for threats and solutions is critical to practicing good cybersecurity and promoting a strong culture for cybersecurity best practices. One of the ways to audit your cybersecurity program is through a vulnerability assessment.
A vulnerability assessment or cybersecurity audit is an analysis or review of potential security weaknesses (or vulnerabilities) of a computer and/or network system. Essentially, the assessment is designed to find which areas in a system could be used as a port-of-entry for a breach, as well as whether or not risks are detected as a result of out-of-date (or misconfigured) software, lackluster controls, poor encryption, user accounts (possibly unauthorized) who have access to it, as well as other system-security factors.
Vulnerability assessments are conducted using a vulnerability scanning tool that will analyze various IT assets including servers, computers, firewalls, switches, applications and devices connected to the network or to each other. Prior to running the scan, you’ll need to identify IT assets that need to be analyzed in order to determine which type(s) of vulnerability assessment to run.
Types of Vulnerability Assessments
Regardless of the type of vulnerability assessment being conducted, the scanning tool will be used to find weaknesses within the specific system being scanned, the severity of that weakness, and the solutions recommended to fix or patch the weakness.
- Network and/or Wireless Scans
A network scan analyzes vulnerabilities in a wired or wireless network system. An example of a vulnerability that could be found in a network scan is if the operating system of a device connected to the network (through WIFI) is severely outdated.
- Host-Based Scans
A host scan assesses an organization’s servers for potential vulnerabilities. An example of a vulnerability that could be found in a host-based scan is if malware (virus, worm, etc.) was installed on the host-based server.
- Database Scans
A database scan analyzes systems storing data for security risks and potential weaknesses. An example of a vulnerability that could be found in a database scan is if it is discovered that the database systems administrator is using a weak, easily-guessable password.
- Application Scans
An application scan analyzes websites or web applications for weaknesses or security risks by reviewing some of its backend code. An example of a vulnerability that could be found in an application scan is if a remote web server is transmitting credentials (passwords or usernames) over the web using clear text (non-encrypted).
Benefits of Vulnerability Assessments
While running a vulnerability assessment can be time consuming, there are huge benefits that can come out of it if they are conducted regularly. The ultimate goal and purpose of a vulnerability assessment is to save your business from a cyber attack or related incident.
- Proactive Threat Identification
The first benefit of a vulnerability assessment is that it’s a proactive measure for detecting threats and security weaknesses. Ideally, you’ll be able to catch a potential threat before it incubates into a full-fledged attack. This proactive vs. reactive remedy is far less costly to an organization when it comes to cyber-incident discovery and response.
- Enhanced Cybersecurity Program
After finding a system vulnerability, a vulnerability scan will offer the recommended solution to patching it or the security control needed to remove that specific weakness. Therefore, businesses who run vulnerability assessments ultimately reap the benefits of enhancing their cybersecurity program as a whole.
- Industry or Regulatory Compliance
Many industry compliance requirements such as HIPAA or PCI specify that a risk assessment of their information-security system(s) are needed to protect their clients’ information. So businesses who fall under these compliance categories are able to check off some of those boxes simply by running a vulnerability scan.
Cost of a Vulnerability Assessment
Vulnerability assessment costs can range depending on the type of scan (network, host-based, database, and application) as well as the quantity of IP’s, servers, applications, and the size of the database. Another factor of pricing is the frequency of vulnerability scans as bulk discounts are generally offered by cybersecurity firms. For example, a monthly vulnerability assessment will be less per scan than an annual one. The average cost of a vulnerability scan is from $2,000-$3,500. For larger enterprises with a lot of IP’s, they can expect anywhere from $5,000-$10,000 per assessment.
Vulnerability assessments are the first steps to improving upon a cybersecurity program by finding and fixing security weaknesses. Due to the complexity of these scans, be sure to consult with your IT management or cybersecurity professionals to ensure that your business gets the most value out of their assessment. See how we can help you and your business with vulnerability assessments by scheduling an appointment today.
For more cybersecurity and technology information, check out some additional articles on:
- Cyber Incident Response Planning
- Password Strength and it’s Key to Information Security
- Cyber & Data Breach Insurance