What is Vulnerability Scanning?

20,175 new vulnerabilities were published in 2021 alone; the highest number of vulnerabilities reported in a single year! There are over 176,000 published vulnerabilities in total as of May 2022. When unsecured or improperly secured, these vulnerabilities leave the application and organization at risk of data breaches.

How do you ensure that attackers don’t exploit these known security gaps, weaknesses, and misconfigurations? The first, most critical step is identifying these vulnerabilities through effective vulnerability scanning.

Continue reading to know more about vulnerability scanning.

What is Vulnerability Scanning?

Vulnerability scanning identifies exploitable weaknesses, gaps, flaws, and misconfigurations in the environment – applications, systems, networks, endpoints, and the IT infrastructure – that create entry points for threat actors to leverage and abuse.

Why is it Necessary?

  • You cannot secure something if you don’t know it exists, and scanning helps you identify all known vulnerabilities such as injection flaws, CSRF, XSS, security misconfigurations, etc.
  • Vulnerability scanning induces proactivity in security, enabling you to identify vulnerabilities before attackers and secure them effectively, preventing exploitation by attackers. So, it minimizes the costs of cleaning up, escalation, and reputational damage when attacks happen.
  • Scanning helps minimize cybersecurity risks and is a central component of any sound threat management program/ strategy.
  • It is a regulatory compliance requirement – most regulatory frameworks have been scanned as an essential requirement. So, not performing scans will attract non-compliance penalties.

How Do Vulnerability Scans Work?

Step 1: Asset Discovery 

Without an updated asset inventory that includes applications and networks within the IT infrastructure to ports, software, devices and systems to cloud services, BYOT devices, IoT devices, etc., your scan will be incomplete. Asset discovery throws light on your entire attack surface and is a critical first step in scanning.

Step 2: Scoping

Define the scope of the scan – what vulnerabilities to scan for, which assets to include in the scan, and so on.

Step 3: Scanning

Here, you must test all assets within the scope of the scan against one or more databases to match signatures, fingerprints, etc., and detect vulnerabilities.

Step 4: Reporting and Documentation

You must document and create a report detailing all the vulnerabilities identified. And thereon, these vulnerabilities must be analyzed and ranked based on severity and steps taken to remediate them.

How to Perform Vulnerability Scanning?


You must perform vulnerability scanning daily and after changes in the tech stack, business process, or any other major changes. This is critical because the threat landscape constantly evolves, and the longer the gap between scans, the larger the risks for the organization.

Tools to Use

Vulnerability scanning can be done both manually and using automated tools. However, manual scanning isn’t recommended, given the growing number of vulnerabilities and the time and resources required to perform them. Further, manual scans have high rates of errors (of omission and commission), eroding security effectiveness.

Organizations recommend and prefer automated scanning as it is accurate, cost-effective, efficient, simple, and saves security personnel from manual drudgery. Automated scanning tools such as Indusface WAS leverage the power of automation, self-learning AI, threat intelligence, and cloud computing to

  • Intelligently discover new assets and find new areas to crawl
  • Find all known vulnerabilities within minutes and hours without any manual interference
  • Detect malware using the latest threat intelligence
  • Detect defacements, website blacklisting, vandalism, etc.
  • Identify business logic flaws and logical vulnerabilities based on custom rules
  • Detect coding flaws, security misconfigurations, and design-level flaws when integrated into the early SDLC stages
  • Maintain high standards of accuracy in asset and vulnerability discovery
  • Be scalable, flexible, and accurate

Types of Vulnerability Scanning

There are 4 different types of vulnerability scanning – internal, external, authenticated, and unauthenticated.

Internal scans detect vulnerabilities from the malicious insider point of view, while external scans focus on all assets exposed outside the organizational network.

Authenticated scanning equips vulnerability scanners with privileged credentials, while unauthenticated scans test for weaknesses from the perspective of threat actors who don’t have access to valid credentials or privileges.

How is Scanning Different from Penetration Testing?

The main difference between penetration testing and vulnerability scanning is the nature of vulnerabilities they identify. Pen-testing is performed manually by certified experts to detect unknown vulnerabilities and logical flaws and evaluate the exploitability of known and unknown vulnerabilities. Scanning is performed using automated tools daily to identify known vulnerabilities. While there are differences in cost, effort, and resource requirements, both are important in effective vulnerability and risk management.

Vulnerability Scanning vs. Vulnerability Assessment

Website vulnerability scanning and assessment are often confused, but they are different terms. Scanning discovers vulnerabilities and is an important part of vulnerability assessments. Vulnerability assessments use findings from scanning, pen-tests, and audits to analyze vulnerabilities and prioritize them based on severity and risks involved.

The Way Forward 

Though an important first step, you shouldn’t stop with vulnerability scanning. You must work on effective remediation and mitigation of identified vulnerabilities to strengthen your security posture.