With the wide range of possibilities technology brings, there are issues with security that you can prevent with high-tech programs, devices, and processes. One of the several methods that businesses focus on to ensure the protection of their information systems is vulnerability assessment. What is a vulnerability assessment, and what makes it a vital tool for companies to incorporate into their technology endeavors? Learn more about a vulnerability assessment, including its description, structure, and creation, by reading the article below. The section also answers frequently asked questions about vulnerability assessments.

39+ SAMPLE Vulnerability Assessments

What Is a Vulnerability Assessment?

A vulnerability assessment is a process or systematic review of identifying, defining, classifying, and prioritizing vulnerabilities and weaknesses within an information system, including computer systems, applications, digital assets, and network infrastructure. The assessment evaluates the business’ systems for any susceptibility to vulnerabilities, estimates severity levels, recommends possible alleviating measures through remediation or remission when possible. The process of vulnerability assessments relies on vulnerability scanners to assess the systems. Businesses using this type of assessment must conduct scans regularly to guarantee that security networks, including adding new devices, installing additional equipment, or using new ports, are secure. Each evaluation provides information on potential vulnerabilities depending on the environment, new insights on risk levels, and possible mitigation strategies involving the vulnerabilities.

Companies ensure that their systems have mitigation capabilities when facing vulnerabilities. According to available data from Statista regarding IT vulnerability assessment marketing revenue worldwide from 2015-2016, the market predicts a generated revenue value of more than 1.7 billion US dollars. It means that organizations are willing to invest extensively in their systems’ security, spending thousands of dollars to guarantee that their information systems operate and perform properly.

Types of Vulnerability Assessments

Many organizations rely on technology to increase their communication capabilities with consumers. At the same time, technology ensures that their systems possess increased protection from any external threats. Vulnerability assessments help pinpoint vulnerabilities across different systems in the organization. Below are the types of vulnerability assessments according to the type of asset they can scan.

Network-based scan: The network-based vulnerability scanners identify the possible security breaches stemming from network security attacks or vulnerabilities from systems through network connections, wired or wireless. The network scans are responsible for discovering and identifying unauthorized or unknown devices or systems in various network locations. It also helps determine the unknown perimeter points within the network. The examples for the perimeters include unauthorized remote access and insecure network connections from partner businesses. Host-based scan: In terms of host-based vulnerability scanners, they function to determine the security vulnerabilities in company servers, employee workstations, and other hosts to provide a better understanding and transparency of configurations up to the patch history of scanned systems. This type of vulnerability scanner tool also provides helpful information regarding possible damages that individuals from inside the organization can inflict given the access to different networks or systems.Wireless scan: The wireless vulnerability scanner’s responsibility is to identify the rogue access points and to configure the company’s secure networks. It assesses the established policies and procedures to prevent unsolicited access in public or private connections, networks, and network-associated resources.Database scan: Database vulnerability scanners detect possible weak points in the database to prevent malicious attacks on the system. It is responsible for assessing large data systems for any vulnerabilities or misconfigurations that can lead to the loss of information. It also identifies rogue databases or insecure environments and classifies sensitive data across different database systems in the organization.Application scan: For application vulnerability scanners, its purpose is to test various websites to identify known software vulnerabilities and erroneous configurations stemming from programs and applications within the network or web. The vulnerability scanners focus on source codes through automated scans using front-end or static or dynamic assessments.

Types of Threats Prevented By Vulnerability Assessments

After identifying possible vulnerabilities through various types of vulnerability assessments, its job is to put up safety plans and prevent threats from accessing systems. Below are some examples of the hazards that vulnerability assessments determine and avert in an organization’s technological setup.

Privilege escalation attacks: The privilege escalation attack is a type of threat that utilizes the exploitation of programming errors, vulnerabilities, design flaws, configuration oversights, and even access control within operating systems or applications that allows unauthorized access to restricted resources and information from an application or a user. When privilege escalation attacks occur, users are granted unlimited access to unauthorized items by developers or administrators. During unrestricted access, individuals can download sensitive information, input malware, and launch malicious cyberattacks on the system. There are two types of privilege escalation attacks: horizontal and vertical. In horizontal privilege escalation, the attacker takes over a privileged account, misusing the access of the initial user. Meanwhile, in vertical privilege escalation, an attacker who gained unauthorized access to a privileged account seeks to gain higher access capabilities. Examples of privilege escalation include accessing token manipulation, bypassing user account control, and using valid accounts.SQL injections: SQL injection attacks occur when untrusted data in the figure of data strings pass-through form inputs or other data submission fields in web applications like search bars. The SQL injection vulnerabilities and the value that these database websites possess are significant contributors to the amount of SQL injection attacks. The types of SQL injection attacks include in-band SQL, blind SQL, and out-of-band SQL injection attacks. When attackers are successful in SQL injection attacks, they can access data, view users lists, client lists, or customers lists, tamper with existing information, delete data sets, unauthorized disclosure of data, destroy data, and gain administrative access to systems.XSS attacks: Cross-site scripting, commonly known as XSS, is a vulnerability commonly in web applications. Cross-site scripting allows potential attackers to insert malicious code in various web pages to bypass access control when users view the page. XSS attacks can become dangerous on varying scales. Attacks on JavaScript are particularly problematic due to JavaScript having unrestricted access to web pages. It is also capable of reading and modifying browser domains. More recently, JavaScript has access to HTML5 APIs, giving it a pass to a user’s geographical location, webcam, microphone, and even personal computer files. There are several types of XSS attacks, including non-persistent, persistent, self-XSS, and mutated XSS attacks.Insecure defaults: Insecure defaults happen to software and hardware with insecure settings. These include easy passwords for onboarding purposes. It is advantageous to an extent. However, the disadvantage stems from users leaving default configurations on their devices, leaving them vulnerable to any threats or attacks.

How the Vulnerability Assessment Process Works

A vulnerability assessment is a five-step process effectively ensuring the reliability of security systems across the company with an efficient application by professionals. The entire process is critical to vulnerability management and IT Risk Management lifecycles, becoming more effective with daily execution. Below are the steps in vulnerability assessments.

  • Step 1: Vulnerability Identification

    The first step in vulnerability is identifying possible vulnerabilities of a system while creating a comprehensive list of each discovered vulnerability. Discovering the vulnerabilities requires a combination of vulnerability scanning and penetration testing. Vulnerability scanning is either authenticated or unauthenticated scans. Authenticated scans provide access to low-level data and allow scanners to access networks using remote administrative protocols, authenticating actions using system credentials. Meanwhile, unauthenticated scans do not have access to networks. It is the type of scan that attackers and security analysts use to determine third-party vendors or data leaks. Penetration testing can pinpoint security flaws and attack vectors unnoticed by vulnerability scanners run by a security team. Pen testing can also test security controls to see if they follow policies and protocols.

  • Step 2: Vulnerability Analysis

    Upon identifying vulnerabilities, specify the components and the root causes responsible for these vulnerabilities. An example of a Root Cause for a vulnerability is an outdated version of an open-source library. Remediation is as easy as updating the library. However, it is not always the case for different problems. There are instances when organizations manually and individually run vulnerabilities to classify severity levels and specify effective solutions, whether to remediate or mitigate according to the risk management policies.

  • Step 3: Risk Assessment

    The main objective of Risk Assessments is to prioritize the vulnerabilities. During this step, classification of severity levels occurs with the help of vulnerability assessment tools. Ensure that the assessment tool the company utilizes hasCommon Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS). It assigns a numerical value to the severity of the vulnerability, ranging from 0 to 10. The vulnerability assessment report must include information about affected systems, sensitive data in systems, business functions, plan of compromise or attack, the severity of impact, accessibility, length of vulnerability, cost of a breach, and finally, organization regulatory requirements to make it effective.

  • Step 4: Vulnerability Remediation

    The remediation process plans on fixing identified vulnerabilities and security issues that are unacceptable by the risk assessment. Remediation involves multiple teams working together, including development, risk management, compliance, operations, and security teams for Cost-Effective Analysis and remediation for different vulnerabilities. Various vulnerability management systems recommend typical remediation methods for known vulnerabilities, ranging from installing updates to replacing hardware. Particular remediation steps vary depending on encountered system vulnerabilities, including updating operating procedures, developing configuration management methods, and patching software.

  • Step 5: Vulnerability Mitigation

    Since not all identified vulnerabilities can undergo remediation, enforcing mitigation processes is the next course of action. Mitigation focuses on reducing the occurrence of a specific vulnerability or diminishing its negative effect on the system. Mitigation methods include introducing new security measures, replacing wares, encryptions, attack surface management, vendor risk management, and persistent security monitoring.


Why do we do vulnerability assessments?

Vulnerability scans are not sufficient in preventing attacks and protecting systems. There are various advantages to conducting vulnerability assessments with security providers with the right tools and techniques for pinpointing these vulnerabilities. Vulnerability assessments detect security vulnerabilities before any attackers. Companies will have a comprehensive inventory of devices with their purpose, along with their vulnerabilities. It also helps prepare businesses for planned subsequent upgrades. The testing also helps collect security reports for future assessments. Through the process, companies possess a well-defined risk assessment for their networks and prepare for hazards by optimizing security systems.

What is VAPT?

Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Training or VAPT refers to a broad range of security assessment processes. The goal is to identify and address cyber security issues and exposures of the IT systems of an organization.

What is OVAL in cyber security?

OVAL stands for Open Vulnerability Assessment Language. It refers to an international information security community standard that offers publicly available security measures and content. OVAL consists of a language that encodes system details, including system repositories within the community.

No matter the size of your organization, when attackers attempt to attack information systems, they choose no one. Once these groups or individuals see an opportunity to infiltrate your technological structure, they will do it. It is best to put up precautions, especially when information systems of companies contain classified information about the company and its clients. Take the opportunity to perform vulnerability assessments for your organization regularly. Use the vulnerability assessment samples in PDF format, available in the article above. It’s better to be safe from any threats inside and outside the business than to resolve issues.