If you’re worried that your company may fall prey to a security breach, you are not alone. Business hacking has become such a pervasive problem that a bill passed in the U.S. Senate to create a resource and guidelines to address the issue. The Main Street Cybersecurity Act now requires the federal government to offer more tools to small businesses to prevent and protect themselves against cyber attack.

While more resources and a government focus on stopping hacking in its tracks can help small business security, it’s still up to companies to protect themselves and keep hackers from infiltrating their systems. That’s why businesses need to empower themselves with a network vulnerability assessment to identify and resolve their security issues. These tests should be scheduled on a regular basis and follow best practices for such assessments in order to pinpoint a business’s security flaws.

Here’s what you need to know and how to get started with network vulnerability assessments.

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What is a Network Vulnerability Assessment?

A network vulnerability assessment is a process that helps review and analyze your computer and device networks for security issues. The assessment may expose network vulnerabilities and holes in your security that could leave an open door for hackers. A network vulnerability assessment should also be performed on an ongoing basis as new threats arise and hackers find additional ways to break into systems.

Network vulnerability assessments aren’t always just a “nice to have” type of resource. Depending on your industry, you may be required to perform vulnerability assessments to remain compliant. For example, PCI and HIPAA require assessments to ensure that you are protecting your customers’ information and sensitive data.

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Project Setup

Just like any other project, your vulnerability assessment process requires a specific framework of organization for best results. Start by preparing for your network vulnerability assessment with a data review and organizing your project assumptions around that review. Your team will also need to compile a detailed list of IP addresses and start configuring IDS/IPS originating IP addresses. Otherwise, you may get false reports that malicious activity infiltrated your configurations.

Remember to think about when and where you will perform your tests. If you’re planning to run your vulnerability assessment scan at a specific time of day, alert both parties of the details of the scan to ensure that the originating IP addresses are accepted on both sides. And it’s not just your computers that need a network vulnerability assessment: anything that can be accessed by the internet, like your printer, could become a way for hackers to infiltrate.

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Vulnerability Assessment Steps

Now that your project is organized and you understand the data and IP addresses you’ll be working with, it’s time to schedule regular network vulnerability scanning. Once you’ve verified the vulnerabilities discovered and identified the false positives, you need to assess if these flaws can ultimately harm your business.

As you determine how these flaws will impact your business and potentially harm your systems and devices, your IT team can prioritize which to resolve first. The remediation efforts you focus on should also come with an execution plan and timeline for complete remediation.

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Vulnerability Assessment Tools

Using the right tools is crucial to vulnerability assessment best practices and can help improve your process. Vulnerability assessment tools are designed to discover which vulnerabilities are present. For example, Veracode offers assessment software and services that scan and identify vulnerabilities in your code.

Businesses can also choose an open source vulnerability scanner and managers like OpenVAS for their assessments and scanning. OpenVAS claims to be the most advanced Open Source vulnerability scanner and manager with a community that can help answer questions about your vulnerability assessments.

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Network Vulnerability Assessment Tasks

Depending on your network’s own vulnerabilities, the results of your scan and process may look different. However, you can ask your team to focus on some of these tasks to get started:

  • Identifying and prioritizing network threats
  • Analyzing router and WiFi passwords for vulnerabilities
  • Reviewing your organization’s network strength against common attacks including Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS), Man-in-the-Middle attack (MITM), and Network Intrusion
  • Analyzing your routers, switches and computers for device security

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Penetration Testing

Although vulnerability assessment tools can help identify security flaws, they can’t determine which loopholes can cause damage and which can’t. That’s why penetration tests are crucial to purposefully, but ethically, exploit vulnerabilities and identify which ones are threats.

Unlike malicious hackers, ethical hackers can empower businesses for the better to fix their vulnerabilities before they spiral out of control and lead to catastrophic damage. These hackers are looking for loopholes to make companies safer and are not breaking into networks and systems for their own personal gain. However, any ethical hacker or penetration tester you hire should have a track record of working with reputable companies and getting their clients results.

Report Creation

Always document your network vulnerability assessment process from start to finish. Your network vulnerability assessment should also generate an assessment report to interpret and track known vulnerabilities and remediation efforts.

The report may detail assets and issues in each scan range and report on the findings. From there, your IT team can start refining the details for future project processes and your next assessment. But don’t just tuck away your reports to collect dust or forget them on a server. You should pull several reports during your ongoing network vulnerability assessments to see if there are any commonalities or patterns in the loopholes you uncover.

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Ongoing Testing

Network vulnerability assessment testing and reporting is not a one-time process. Your company should establish a culture of security that focuses on the ongoing safety of your business. Although your IT team and Chief Security Officer will focus on the actual security assessments, the rest of your staff can partake in security training of their own.

Walk your team through the latest ransomware and ransomworm threats, phishing email scams, and the importance of always updating their systems and practicing good data security. The more your team understands the threats that can happen every time they boot up their devices, the more likely they are to try and stop an attack before it’s too late.

Make keeping your network safe and secure the cornerstone of your business. Although a network vulnerability assessment takes some time and resources, it will alleviate the financial burden of dealing with a hack that could have been prevented simply by knowing your network’s weaknesses.

Have you worked on network vulnerability assessments in your own business? Let us know by leaving a comment below:

Founder & Chief Marketing Officer, Indusface

Venky has played multiple roles within Indusface for the past 6 years. Prior to this, as the CTO @indusface, Venky built the product/service offering and technology team from scratch, and grew it from ideation to getting initial customers with a proven/validated business model poised for scale. Before joining Indusface, Venky had 10+ years of experience in security industry and had held various mgmt/leadership roles in Product Development, Professional Services and Sales @Entrust.