What is Vulnerability Testing? Benefits, Tools, and Process
Software vulnerabilities are the most significant security risks organizations face today, and several critical vulnerabilities have been identified in 2023, including Apache Superset, Papercut, and MOVEit SQL Injection vulnerabilities.
In the first quarter of 2023, AppTrana detected 24,000 vulnerabilities across 1,400+ sites. Even more concerning is that 31% of these vulnerabilities were classified as critical, underscoring the need to assess their risks and potential impact on an organization’s security framework.
Vulnerability Testing is one of the crucial components of the cybersecurity strategy because you can’t fix security vulnerabilities that you are unaware of.
What is Vulnerability Testing?
Vulnerability testing, also known as vulnerability assessment or scanning, is a systematic process of identifying, evaluating, and assessing weaknesses, flaws, or vulnerabilities in computer systems, networks, applications, or other digital assets.
Vulnerability testing aims to discover security weaknesses that malicious actors could exploit proactively and provides actionable insights for remediation.
Various tools and techniques are employed during vulnerability testing to scan and analyze the target system or application for potential vulnerabilities. This may include automated scans, manual penetration testing, code reviews, and configuration analysis.
The objective is to identify vulnerabilities such as software bugs, misconfigurations, weak passwords, insecure network protocols, or known security vulnerabilities in software components.
Why is Vulnerability Testing Critical?
What’s the need for vulnerability testing when your developers follow secure development practices? While most development teams believe they follow the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) best practices, they undermine the frequent application updates and vulnerabilities that arise with every update.
Here are some risks your business faces with improper vulnerability analysis.
Due to a lack of proper testing mechanisms, companies often learn about vulnerabilities after exploitation. Data breaches can affect your reputation in the long run. According to a survey conducted by OnePoll, more than 80% out of 2000 people surveyed said that they were not likely to do business with an organization that has suffered data leaks involving credit and debit card details.
Even a small SQL injection flaw can leave the database open for exploitation. Hackers need only one file containing users’ personal information to damage years of your reputation.
According to projections, cybercrime will cost the world $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. Did you know Anthem paid over $100 million in one of the largest data breach settlements.
In 2022, the financial impact of data breaches reached an all-time high of $4.35 million.
Meta, in November 2022, faced a substantial fine of €265 million (equivalent to $277 million) from the Ireland Data Protection Commission (DPC) following the exposure of 500 million users’ personal information.
These are just breached settlement numbers; businesses also lose money in many other ways. Of the companies that were victims of data breaches, 29% reported a loss in revenue. Data breaches also damage brand reputation and numerous hidden costs such as legal fees, regulatory fees, PR, and investigations.
Companies can take up to a year to get back into the market. Eventually, businesses lose money through share price drops, settlements, customer loss, fines, and hiring security vendors or pen testers. Does it make sense to cover loopholes in the first place?
Take a look at this detailed blog that delves into the most notable data breaches ever recorded.
6 Steps in Vulnerability Testing Process
For effective and comprehensive vulnerability testing, a precise plan is essential. These essential steps can be a good starting point:
1. Define the goals or objectives of the process
Outline the key purposes of vulnerability testing, which include discovering vulnerabilities, assessing risk levels, enhancing security posture, and validating security controls.
By defining these objectives, you can effectively plan and execute vulnerability testing to identify your systems’ weaknesses and assess the potential impact and likelihood of exploitation.
2. Gather all the required information
Gather details on the specific application or application cluster, including business logic, privilege requirements, etc. This includes making a thorough list of all the IT assets of the company, understanding the risk associated with each piece of equipment, and choosing the right vulnerability testing type required to test for vulnerabilities efficiently.
3. Test applications
An assessment expert uses tools to uncover deep-seated weaknesses. The IT environment is scanned using vulnerability scanners, and security vulnerabilities are detected. More complex flaws often require manual penetration testing.
Document and report all the vulnerabilities found from the scan. Follow a deeper analysis of the security vulnerabilities to understand their causes and potential impact. Then rank detected flaws based on their severity and the extent of damage that they could cause. This helps to quantify the threat and understand the level of urgency or risk behind it.
5. Remediation Support
The key flaws are then remediated using the ranking from the previous step. The most urgent threats are prioritized and patched first. Security and vulnerability testing needs to be scheduled and done regularly to understand the development of your security posture over time.
Indusface WAS takes it further by providing remediation guidelines and follow-up testing to ensure all your issues have been resolved.
6. Virtual Patch
Suppose you cannot resolve it quickly (which is often the case). In that case, AppTrana WAAP helps you fix it soon with virtual patching in the Web Application Firewall (WAF) layer.
The advantage of this goes beyond just time to fix benefits. It provides a platform to monitor where the attacks are coming from and automatically keep the attackers out permanently from trying anything else based on reputation identities and history of attack attempts.
Prepare for your vulnerability assessment process from our blog on the vulnerability assessment checklist [Free Excel File].
Vulnerability Testing Tools
Vulnerability assessment tools can be categorized into different types based on their specific focus and capabilities. Here are several types of vulnerability assessment tools:
Network Vulnerability Scanners: These tools specialize in scanning and assessing vulnerabilities present in network devices, such as routers, switches, firewalls, and servers. They identify open ports, outdated firmware, misconfigurations, and known vulnerabilities in network services.
Web Application Scanners: Web application scanners are designed to assess the security of web applications and websites. They identify vulnerabilities like SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), insecure authentication mechanisms, and other web-specific vulnerabilities.
Database Scanners: These tools focus on assessing the security of databases by scanning for vulnerabilities in database management systems (DBMS). They identify misconfigurations, weak authentication mechanisms, and vulnerabilities in database systems.
Wireless Network Scanners: Wireless network scanners are specifically designed to assess the security of wireless networks. They identify vulnerabilities in wireless access points, encryption weaknesses, and other wireless network-related risks.
Source Code Analysis Tools: These tools analyze the source code of applications to identify potential security flaws and vulnerabilities. They help identify insecure coding practices, buffer overflows, injection vulnerabilities, and other code-related weaknesses.
Configuration Auditing Tools: Auditing tools assess the security configurations of systems, devices, and applications. They check for compliance with security best practices, industry standards, and organizational security policies.
Cloud-Based Vulnerability Management Platforms: Cloud-based vulnerability management platforms provide centralized scanning and management of vulnerabilities across multiple systems, networks, and cloud environments. They offer a wide range of vulnerability scanning and reporting capabilities.
Exploitation Frameworks: Exploitation frameworks like Metasploit focus on simulating real-world attacks and exploiting known vulnerabilities. They can be used for offensive security testing (penetration testing) and defensive purposes.
Some vulnerability assessment tools may have overlapping functionalities and fall into multiple categories. You can use different tools to cover various vulnerability assessment and management aspects based on your specific requirements and environments.
Indusface Web Application Scanning provides continuous and comprehensive web application dynamic security testing, which includes daily or on-demand automated scanning with penetration testing for mission-critical applications.