Vulnerability Scanning: Pros, Cons and Best Practices

Vulnerability scanning has become an important practice in cybersecurity

There are a lot of threats that can be discovered on a daily basis. And these threats can damage your valuable data and systems. Therefore, it is important to detect your network ecosystem for associated risks. 

But it is equally true that vulnerability scanning has its own limitations. They can deal with the vulnerabilities known to them. Using outdated or inferior vulnerability scanning tools can give a false sense of security. 

To equip you with the right outlook towards vulnerability scanning, here we have come up with some key pros and cons of vulnerability scanning. 

Advantages of Vulnerability Scanning:

  • Quick Results:

The key benefit of vulnerability scan tools is that they generate quick results. 

  • Repeatable:

An automated vulnerability scan can be repeated as you can decide when and how long to perform the scan. 

  • Easy to Use:

Most vulnerability scanning tools come with a user-friendly interface. However, a security specialist is still required to read the results obtained through these tools. 

  • Constant Monitoring:

Vulnerability scanning software can be used effectively for constant monitoring. 

Disadvantages of Vulnerability Scanning:

  • Not Locating All Vulnerabilities:

A vulnerability scanning tool can miss on some threats, so you have no idea which vulnerability can be exposed by a threat actor. For example, it might not detect the threat that is unknown to its database. Sometimes, the vulnerability is too complex to be detected by an automated tool. 

  • Giving a False Sense of Security

If you have a large IT infrastructure, plenty of servers and data systems, it can be challenging to understand the impact of the vulnerabilities detected by the scanner. Consequently, you end up with a false positive. If you are not a cybersecurity pro, it would be time-consuming and overwhelming to detect such things. 

  • Unclear Vulnerabilities

If a vulnerability is spotted, it is sometimes challenging to examine its impact on your business operations. An automated tool won’t educate you on this while a system admin will likely be more concerned about the technical part of the vulnerability.     

Hope these pros and cons would help you develop the right outlook towards vulnerability scanning tools. The point is here that you shouldn’t blindly believe the results as no tool is perfect. Therefore, keep your tools updated and run a frequent scan that can be once a week or month. 

Need for Vulnerability Scan?

For organizations in need of quantifying their exposure to surface level risks, vulnerability scanning can be a cost-effective method of discovering available attack vectors, albeit with some shortcomings that are important to understand.

First, a vulnerability scan is not equivalent to a network penetration test. In a pen test, vulnerabilities are not only discovered, but they are also exploited and re-exploited, if possible, in the name of discovering all potential damage a harmful actor could do if able to gain access to an organization’s network.

Such testing is carried out by a live specialist – in our case here at Cynexlink, by our Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) – who thinks and acts like an intruder.

How does it work?

Vulnerability scans, on the other hand, are typically run via automated programs. While these scans can be effective at performing network discovery, identifying open ports, missing patches, misconfigurations and more, it should also be remembered that such scans only uncover surface vulnerabilities – those weaknesses that exist in isolation, independent from other weak spots.

Unfortunately, vulnerabilities rarely exist in isolation. Indeed, a string of seemingly low-level individual risks could leave a gaping security hole while leaving the scanned organization falsely confident in its risk profile.

Out-of-date signature repositories and the ability of network-based scanning solutions to run only on active systems are further drawbacks, which means poorly established vulnerability scans can either be inaccurate or more labour-intensive than imagined.

If run by an experienced provider who knows how to avoid the potholes mentioned above, however, vulnerability scanning can indeed provide great cybersecurity bang-for-the-buck.

Here are five rules for ensuring a positive outcome with vulnerability scanning: 

  • Scan All Network Assets

Make sure to scan each device and access points within your network ecosystem. Assessing all assets within the system helps expose various loopholes within the infrastructure and lets you create solutions accordingly. Moreover, create an inventory list including all network assets regardless of their function, and determine which target to be scanned from your inventory.

  • Scan Frequently

The gap between the scans can be critical as this time interval leaves your systems exposed to new threats. Scanning can be done weekly, monthly, or quarterly. If done frequently, not every network device is required to be scanned, minimizing the time and effort while providing layered network coverage. Your network architecture and device impact are factors that help determine scanning intervals.

  • Set Accountability

Create asset owners or asset supervisors to create accountability. For example, roles can be designed to protect specific devices and take actions in the event of a data incident. However, asset owners shouldn’t be confined to tech teams; business owners can also oversee some systems.

  • Run Patching Process

Patching internet-enabled equipment for all discovered vulnerabilities is more crucial than patching similar devices that have already been blocked by firewalls or settings. This is a time-management practice that can be needed due to resource limitations and it is essential to focus on assets that provide the highest risk levels to the enterprise.

  • Document All Scans and Their Results:

Make sure to document all scans and their outcomes. Every vulnerability scan should be scheduled utilizing a management-approved timetable, with an audit process set to provide detailed reporting. By documenting the scan run according to a timetable, companies can monitor vulnerability trends and issues, identifying susceptible systems and creating accountability.

Interested in learning more about how Cynexlink provides pen testing and vulnerability scanning solutions for companies of all sizes? Contact us to learn more!


Mayra Cortes