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Vulnerabilities / Threats

3/23/2012
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Choosing The Right Vulnerability Scanner For Your Organization

Vulnerability scanning plays a key role in both security administration and compliance. But which tools are right for you? Here are some tips on how to decide

[Excerpted from "Choosing The Right Vulnerability Scanner For Your Organization," a new report published this week on Dark Reading's Vulnerability Management Tech Center.]

Vulnerability scanners can be used to detect defects in an organization’s security program, such as the organization’s patch management process, hardening procedures, and software development life cycle. Indeed, without the use of network-based and Web application-specific vulnerability scanners, your organization may never know that various processes in the security program are severely flawed and the security posture critically weak until it’s too late.

With that said, a vulnerability scanner alone does nothing to improve the security posture of an organization; it is effective only if it’s part of a larger vulnerability management program, or VMP.

A solid VMP must include system discovery, asset classification, vulnerability scanning, vulnerability prioritization, vulnerability remediation, and root cause analysis. This list of tasks is by no means complete, but it should serve as a reminder that a vulnerability scanner should never be chosen outside the context of the overall VMP. Vulnerability scanners often come with tools that can assist with a variety of VMP tasks, and these capabilities should be considered when selecting a tool for the organization.

One of the most important pieces of a VMP is vulnerability prioritization. Many vulnerability scanners let users enter asset classification information for the assets in the organization’s environment. These scanners can then generate reports that correlate the asset classification information with the vulnerabilities that the scanner identifies. These reports can essentially be used as remediation road maps and eliminate the need to manually prioritize remediation efforts.

Another task involved in a VMP is remediation, and one of the most difficult elements of the remediation process is tracking. In fact, this process can often become chaotic, and the remediation of specific vulnerabilities can be overlooked.

Vulnerability scanners fall within two broad categories: network-based and Web application vulnerability scanners. Each of these scanners has a specific role in the identification of certain vulnerability types. Ideally, an organization should utilize both network-based and Web application vulnerability scanners. The ability for the vulnerability scanner to actually identify technical vulnerabilities in the organization’s network is the highest priority.

For a detailed discussion of the key differences among vulnerability scanners -- and for a full list of evaluation criteria that your organization can use -- download the free report on how to choose vulnerability scanners.

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