What is a Vulnerability Assessment Plan?

Before getting to the assessment plan, we should define what vulnerability assessment means first. The term Vulnerability Assessment refers to the process or the thorough review of any form of a security weakness that is present in any type of information system, application, or network. By performing a vulnerability assessment, it enables a network company to have an insight as to what are the risks associated with external attacks that seek to exploit vulnerabilities.

A vulnerability assessment plan refers to a document that clearly defines or outlines the objectives and tasks that are to be performed during the vulnerability assessment. This document also aids to streamlines the process by effectively outlining the security vulnerabilities that can be present on your network and resolving them accordingly.

What Should be Included in a Vulnerability Assessment Plan?

As with any other documents, there are some components that should be included in order to make it effective. With that being said, here are the key elements that make up an effective vulnerability assessment plan:

Policy. This is the first element that should be in the document. Vulnerability assessment plans must have a policy tackling the objective, frequency, and expectations for remedy when a vulnerability is discovered. Once set up and tailored to your environment, a decent vulnerability assessment program should be able to execute as a scheduled operation. To make sure that this is effective, you need to make sure that your policy specifies which systems will be inspected and how long a system owner will have to fix any vulnerabilities discovered.Support of the Management. This should be included in the document since you need management support to give the authorization for your policy, to assist you in performing your vulnerability assessments, and lastly, to insist that any vulnerabilities you discover be remedied. The final reason is particularly important since it is useless to discover a defect just to have the system owner declare they’re too busy to remedy or troubleshoot it. Having proper management backing also guarantees that your vulnerability assessment plan does not go to waste.The appropriate program. To be successful, a vulnerability assessment plan must use the appropriate vulnerability assessment program. There are several options available, and selecting the best one for you is important to your success. In order to make it easy, choose one that is simple to update and manage, operates on an operating system you are already acquainted with, and, most importantly, one that can examine all of the systems on your network.Coverage. This part of the assessment plan ensures that everything from all types of operating systems down to mobile devices is adequately covered so that proper and effective assessment can be performed.Regular Assessment. This element of the vulnerability assessment plan states that you should conduct internal network assessments on a regular basis by inspecting your servers and workstations as comprehensively as possible. It is important to not merely time your scans to coincide with the arrival of new systems because every day, new vulnerabilities are discovered. An example of scanning on a regular basis would be performing it at least once a month. And, on occasion, many, but not all, efforts to hack your systems will originate from outside. If feasible, evaluate your systems from outside the company network to have the same perspective that intruders will have over the Internet.Response. The term response indicates that each and every vulnerability discovered should be remedied as soon as possible. When your VA discovers problems, you’ll find that common sense is absent, therefore you’ll need to rely on policy and management authority to encourage system administrators to fix their systems and firm up their configurations.New Systems Assessment. It is relatively simple to repair a system before it gets into production. There is no requirement for a change control or a maintenance window. However, it can be far more difficult to repair it after it is in production. As a result, your vulnerability assessment plan must include a need to examine all systems before they’re in production to ensure they are as safe as possible on the first day that the system goes live.Risk Acceptance and Responsibility. Finally, make absolutely sure your vulnerability assessment plan provides a provision for the business to accept responsibility for whatever the outcome is if a vulnerability is exploited and the business continues to take the risk and that you document when you have completed your work and the business has accepted the risk.

Examples of Security Vulnerabilities

Security vulnerabilities can come in different types. Here are some examples to be aware of:

Malware in Automated Scripts. One frequent cybersecurity weakness that some attackers have learned to exploit is the tendency of certain web browsers to launch trusted or compatible scripts automatically with a simple click. Cybercriminals might enable the browser software to run malware without the user’s knowledge or input by replicating a trusted piece of code and deceiving the browser and the user, who, in many cases, would not know how to stop this harmful feature.Undetected Security Bugs. Whenever two or more software programs are designed to communicate with one another, the complexity of computer software can only be amplified and grow. The problem with this is that there may be programming flaws and conflicts inside a single piece of software, which can lead to security vulnerabilities. Bugs that are found but unresolved during the programming stage and unexpected code interactions are among the most frequent computer security vulnerabilities, and hackers work hard every day to find and exploit them. The bad thing about this is it can be virtually impossible to tell when a system vulnerability is exploited since combinations of software are limitless.Undetected Backdoor Programs. What does a backdoor program mean? Simply put, a backdoor is a program or piece of code installed by a manufacturer of computer components, software, or whole machines that allows a computer to be remotely accessed. Installing a backdoor program is usually done for diagnostic purposes. On the other hand, A hidden backdoor program is one that is installed onto a computer without the user’s knowledge. This can prove to be a major software vulnerability because they make it much too simple for someone with sufficient understanding of the backdoor program to gain unauthorized access to the afflicted computer system and any network to which it is linked.Failure to Control Account Privileges. This can be important but it is overlooked way too often. A limited user account can cause fewer damages whenever it is hacked. Many businesses, however, fail to regulate user account access capabilities, enabling almost any user on the network to have administrator-level access. It is a critical task for controlling computer security risks to ensure that access to a particular account is limited to only what each user requires to execute their work, and nothing more than that. Giving a user, especially an unprivileged one, more account access than they require can lead to them exploiting any software that is critical for the system’s security. It is also crucial to ensure that freshly formed accounts do not have admin-level access in order to prevent less-privileged users from simply establishing more powerful accounts.

How to Perform a Vulnerability Assessment

Performing an effective vulnerability assessment is critical to detect and remediate any minor or critical security vulnerabilities that may be detected inside a system. When left undetected, vulnerabilities can heavily compromise the normal operations of a system. With that being said, here are the steps to follow when conducting the assessment:

  • 1. Initial Identification and Analysis

    Before performing the vulnerability assessment, it is critical to perform an initial identification first. What is included here and what should be done? To begin, you need to identify the assets and identify the risk and crucial worth for each item, such as a vulnerability scanner for security assessments. Why is this done? This is because it is critical to determine the significance of the devices on your network or the devices that will be tested. It’s also essential to know if the device (or devices) may be accessible by anybody in your firm.

  • 2. Gather Information About the Systems

    After performing the initial identification/assessment, the next thing to do prior to doing the vulnerability assessment is to acquire the necessary information about the systems. Examine the device for open ports, processes, and applications that should not be open. Understand the allowed drivers and software that really should be loaded on the device, as well as the basic device settings. As an example, if the item is a perimeter device, it should not be set up with a default administrator account. In this stage, you should also collect publicly available information and vulnerabilities about the device platform, version, vendor, and any other pertinent facts.

  • 3. Scan for Vulnerabilities

    After gathering the important information about the system, the next step to do would be to perform a vulnerability scan. Examine any regulatory requirements depending on your company’s posture and business before beginning the vulnerability check, and determine the ideal time and date to complete the scan. It is also critical to understand the client’s industrial context and evaluate if the scan can be completed all at once or if segmentation is required. A very essential task to perform in this step is to re-define and obtain permission for the policy that will be used for the vulnerability scan. In case of a manual scan being required for optimal results, you need to configure accordingly the credentials on the scanner’s settings menu in order for this step to work much more effectively. And when performing the scan, keep in mind to do it when the traffic to the target system is at its lowest to avoid any unnecessary complications such as an overload.

  • 4. Interpret the Results of the Scan

    After performing the scan and getting the results, the next step would be to perform the necessary interpretations to find out what to do next. In order to do this step effectively, it is critical to have qualified staff personnel that can configure, run, and analyze the findings of a vulnerability scan. It is also necessary to understand the scanned system in order to correctly prioritize remedial activities. Even while each vulnerability screening program automatically prioritizes vulnerabilities, there are still specific types of vulnerabilities that should be prioritized.

  • 5. Create the Report

    After interpreting the results, now comes arguably the most important part which is creating the report. To do this effectively, pay close attention to all of the specifics and strive to offer value throughout the suggestions phase. You can also add suggestions that are based on the initial assessment aims to get the most out of the final report. Additionally, risk mitigation measures depending on the criticality of the assets and results should be included. Lastly, add findings on any potential gaps that can exist between the results and the system baseline definition, as well as recommendations for correcting the deviations and mitigating any risks.


What is a host based vulnerability scan?

A host-based vulnerability scan is referred to as a scan that looks for vulnerabilities in network hosts such as PCs (personal computers), laptops, and servers. This scan primarily looks at the host configuration, user directories, file systems, RAM (random access memory) settings, and other data that may be found on a host. This scan is mainly concerned with network endpoints along with their corresponding internal system configurations and operations. When the results of a host-based vulnerability scan are ignored, it can lead to various misconfigurations and inconsistencies in network endpoints which lead to hackers being able to move more freely throughout the system. As a result, it can be a massive disaster for the network company.

What does information security management mean?

ISM, or better known as information security management, establishes and administers the controls that an organization must apply to guarantee that the privacy, accessibility, and authenticity of assets are properly protected from threats and vulnerabilities. It is also a set of rules and procedures that help you manage security and risks methodically and throughout your whole organization (information security). These security measures might adhere to mainstream security protocols or they can also be industry-specific.

How does unencrypted data affect a network’s vulnerability?

Unencrypted data can affect the vulnerability of a network system by making it simpler for attackers to steal and utilize data. Unencrypted data on a network system can prove to be a serious risk to businesses of all sizes. Although encryption will not prevent an attack, it serves as an effective deterrent against attackers who may attempt to use stolen information by converting it into a bunch of nonsensical ones and zeroes until such time that it can be decoded. Encryption also gives consumer protection teams enough time (depending on how well-encrypted the system is) to warn impacted parties so that they can adopt anti-identity theft steps to avert harm.

Different vulnerabilities are present in any given system in any given period of time. If a vulnerability assessment is frequently and thoroughly conducted, there is a chance that the vulnerabilities can be detected and the appropriate remedy can then be performed on the affected system. Until such time, it remains hidden and can be exploited if someone is knowledgeable enough to do so. This can lead to disastrous consequences. Vulnerability assessment may be a complex process, but they have proved to be an effective pillar for the defenses of any given system. In this article, examples of a vulnerability assessment plan are ready to be downloaded for use as a reference should the need arise.