The Complete Security Vulnerability Assessment Checklist

Enterprises powered by custom software or exploiting any other forms of digital solutions face quite enough challenges that come from many different sources. Online fraudsters seek weaknesses in computer systems to perpetrate any system that will inevitably harm a business.

The number of attacks on critical infrastructure has increased from 20% to 40% during the past year, as the Microsoft Digital Defense Report 2022 states. Still, many businesses remain badly prepared for them and, therefore, stay undefended, which in most cases results in financial and reputational losses caused by cybercrime.

The problem affects individuals and companies of various sectors and sizes.  Accenture’s Cost of Cybercrime Study shows that 43% of cyber attacks target small-size businesses, but only 14% of them can defend themselves.

Security Vulnerability Assessment Checklist

Any information system should go through security assessments to reduce the risk of attacks.

Understanding the Key Notions

Vulnerability management is a systematic process designed to review the system and detect vulnerabilities and threats. These phenomena are not as similar in nature as they may seem.

Vulnerabilities are the existing weaknesses of the system or a device, whereas threats are potential events that might occur in the future. Typically, vulnerabilities arise from code or software design bugs, subsequently allowing authenticated or unauthenticated attackers to cause harm.

Also, weaknesses may have their roots in security procedure gaps.

In addition, the assessment allows for evaluating the system’s susceptibility to any known vulnerabilities and defining their severity.

The final step of this comprehensive review is suggesting possible remedies for tackling the problems and better security measures. 

In the course of the system’s vulnerability review, IT professionals may apply manual techniques and automated tools to uncover all possible security gaps, including but not limited to the following: malicious software (worms, trojans, and viruses), outdated software, weak passwords, single-factor authentication, misconfigured firewalls, spam, missing data backup, Shadow IT.

Stages of Security Vulnerability Assessment

Preparation and configuration

The first step towards the successful assessment is thorough planning, which allows for identifying the assets to be analyzed (these may be web applications, devices, cloud-based infrastructure, databases, etc.). For this, the entire ecosystem is segmented into blocks, and depending on the type of assets to be scanned, the IT professionals select appropriate methods and tools. 

It is important to look at the identified assets from the attacker’s point of view and rank them from the least to the most vulnerable. In ideal conditions, all the assets discovered should go through regular checks, but in reality, the customer has to set the priorities as their budget is often limited and therefore can’t cover the cost of every one of their numerous assets that require a comprehensive vulnerability assessment. 

Before proceeding to the assessment, vendors identify target IP addresses along with their hardware or software to add them to the scanning tool. Then, they scan the network to detect open ports, their ranges, and protocol types with subsequent identification of the scan intensiveness level, its duration, and notifications upon completion.

Vulnerability Scan

At this stage, the professionals check target segments, applying selected methods and tools to identify security flaws and weaknesses alongside their sources (for instance, the cause of the vulnerability may be outdated software).

The assessment detects the data at risk, affected networks, systems, or devices, and helps to see the severity and damage of the potential attack. 

Result analysis

The vulnerability scan typically results in the report providing a massive amount of unstructured data. Thus, the information should be clearly organized and thoroughly analyzed so that the report can serve as a base for remediation and mitigation of the detected vulnerabilities. 

A careful review of the report results gives detailed characteristics of vulnerabilities and a complete understanding of potential business consequences in case they are exploited by cybercriminals. Among the most important details of the vulnerability is their severity level.

When planning remediation, one should first react to the most critical security flaws, keeping in mind those with less probability of fraudulent exposure. A quality scan always suggests timelines for eliminating each one.

It must be mentioned that the information system assessment is conducted in compliance with regulatory standards (HIPAA, PCI DSS, ISO/IEC 27002, CIS Controls, and others).

Final words

Building strong cyber security is critical to a strong cyber defense and is crucial for any business in today’s digitized epoch. Hardly any enterprise or individual can boast of their weakness-free systems or devices.

An average IT infrastructure contains at least one vulnerability that threatens its security. Addressing the system’s flows before an attacker exploits it saves a great deal of money, time, and the company’s reputation. Though the extensive vulnerability may be cost-intensive and time-consuming, it still doesn’t exceed the expenses needed to eliminate the consequences of fraudulent interference.