What to Look for in a Network Vulnerability Scanner

With mounting cybersecurity threats, a vulnerability scanner might seem to be an indispensable tool to have in your arsenal. But not all vulnerability scanners are created equal. To get the best protection, you need to understand what a vulnerability scanner is and what to look for in a scanner so you can receive 24/7 protection.

A vulnerability scanner is a tool that automatically evaluates weaknesses in your digital infrastructure, such as unpatched systems, open ports, misconfigurations, and more. If these security holes aren’t discovered and remediated, they can be exploited by bad actors. 

You may think your security team has a handle on these risks, but as the network perimeter expands – to the cloud, remote locations, and across business units and geographies – pinpointing where vulnerabilities exist isn’t easy.

When planning your organization's vulnerability scanning strategy, there are plenty of options available, but you should do your homework. Let’s look at what you should consider when selecting a vulnerability scanner for your enterprise.

Types of vulnerability scanners

Vulnerability scanning tools can be found for free or at a very low cost on the internet, however, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. Some only probe for specific vulnerabilities or scan certain areas of your network, ignoring your entire infrastructure and hidden threats.

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Even scanners that have a robust set of capabilities have their limitations. That’s because they focus on specific areas of your infrastructure. There’s a tool for the cloud, another for endpoints, another for databases and applications, and so on. As a result, teams spend time jumping between tools and fail to get a complete picture of their organizations’ security postures. This incoherent view of risk may even mask security threats.

Another common downside is that when these tools detect a cybersecurity gap, they lack the capabilities to discover the root cause so that security teams can prevent it happening again.

What to look for in a vulnerability scanner

To truly understand the risks that a threat actor might exploit, you need a vulnerability scanner that sees your expanding network the way the bad guys do – automatically and continuously.

For example, BitSight Attack Surface Analytics continuously probes your network – ports, endpoints, databases, applications, cloud instances, even shadow IT and remote offices – without the need for costly point solutions. When a vulnerability is discovered, BitSight will alert you in near-real time. You can also drill down into the root causes of vulnerabilities and take control of risk exposure without succumbing to tool sprawl.

With this outside-in view of your network, you can identify hidden risks and the systems or data that may be compromised if a hacker exploits that threat. Findings are displayed on a centralized dashboard, including the location of individual digital assets broken down by cloud provider, geography, and business unit – and the cyber risk associated with each asset. 

You can even visualize areas of critical or excessive risk – such as a vulnerability in a web application firewall that guards sensitive data stored in the cloud –  and prioritize them for remediation. 
 

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Reporting capabilities

Finally, unlike traditional vulnerability scanning tools, BitSight can help demonstrate your organization’s cyber preparedness and communicate any risks to program stakeholders, including senior leaders and board members. 

With an easy-to-understand visual of your attack surface, your current risk exposure, high-risk assets, and the actions needed to mitigate risk, BitSight makes it easy to clearly communicate your organization’s cyber reality. For example, you can present executives with digestible metrics on how many vulnerabilities you have in your digital ecosystem and their severity – i.e., their likelihood of contributing to a breach – so that they can make more informed decisions about where investments and resources are needed.

Take the guesswork out of vulnerability management

Learn more about BitSight’s data driven insights can help you gain visibility into your attack surface and the risks from cyber vulnerabilities.