How to Do a Network Vulnerability Assessment (Step by Step Guide)

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When’s the last time your firm had a network vulnerability assessment done? If it’s been more than a couple of quarters ago, you’re due for another. According to the Ponemon Institute, 62% of organizations that experienced a data breach were unaware that they were vulnerable prior to the breach.

These days, having “fairly up-to-date” software patches and intrusion deterrence isn’t good enough. Nothing less than the latest patches and firewall protection will do. But how do you know if you’re vulnerable, or even if you’re using the latest software?

The answer is to conduct a thorough network security vulnerability assessment, correct any deficiencies, and then follow up on a regular basis.

What is a Network Vulnerability Assessment?

Data sharing over networks, cloud storage, and instant B2B communication have led to massive productivity growth. The other side of the coin reveals the dark side of progress: the equal or greater technical prowess of malicious actors that would like nothing better than to access your data to sell or hold it for ransom.

Such scenarios can not only cost dearly in the form of a damaged reputation and money spent to recover lost data, but might also put the very survival of your business in jeopardy.

Security vulnerability assessments examine all components of an organization’s network, and check them for weaknesses.

A simple example of a vulnerability are outdated web applications that do not have the developer’s latest security patch installed. Other examples can include:

  • Open network ports
  • Obsolete hardware, and
  • Use of passwords that are inadequate, old, or easy to guess

The assessment itself can involve an external penetration test, internal scans for weaknesses, mobile and cloud scans for security and malware, and more.

Network Vulnerability Assessment Methodology

network vulnerability assessment methodologyº

How difficult is it to implement a network vulnerability assessment?

Not difficult at all, provided you have experience, and are familiar with the latest protocols and regulations. Here are the main network vulnerability assessment steps:

  1. Compile a list of all network devices, including endpoints, appliances, firewalls, etc.
  2. Adhere to existing scanning policies, including having an owner approved by management to lead the process.
  3. Determine the best type of network vulnerability scanner for each area of the system, including those for external scans (for penetration testing) and internal scans. Data storage and backups, access to cloud storage, and mobile devices also need to be included in the scan.
  4. Consider the risks of the scan, including its traffic load on the network. This can impact the daily working of the business, even if scheduled after hours.
  5. Configure the vulnerability scanning tools and perform the scan, listing the targets, time of scan, duration, and aggressiveness.
  6. Study and interpret the scan results, and identify the most critical areas where a vulnerability is detected.
  7. Create a plan among the IT staff to address the vulnerabilities, while budgeting time and committing resources for the tasks.

Putting the Plan into Action

Summarizing the above, after completing a list of all network IT equipment, you can begin the process of identifying security weaknesses in a network, analyzing them, and then remediating those deficiencies based on established risk criteria.

Security risks are divided into four categories: Critical, High, Medium, and Low.

Your security experts conduct a vulnerability analysis based on network scans, and then prioritize the risks into the four severity levels listed above.

From there, an action plan is formulated to address the vulnerabilities. The fixes can range from installing the latest software and operating systems patches, to selected hardware upgrades, and implementing the latest integration and training policies.

How A Network Vulnerability Assessment Can Benefit Your Organization

Aside from identifying weak areas in your network, a security assessment can:

  • Reduce costs by eliminating inefficient or out-of-date hardware
  • Close unnecessary ports and services, streamlining efficiencies while fortifying the network
  • Ensure employees are trained in the latest email and confidentiality policies
  • Help maintain security best practices going forward
  • Get peace of mind with the assurance that you will not be caught unaware or unprepared

Staying Compliant With Regulations

Another crucial benefit is maintaining regulatory compliance, which can help you stay competitive, enrich your reputation among customers, and help reduce the cost of insurance. It’s also a great way to leverage the latest technology to empower your business.

Important Considerations While Preparing for an Assessment

network vulnerability assessment steps

An assessment is only as good as those carrying it out. The network administrators in charge of the process must be up-to-date on all the latest threats, and know how to best shield against them.

Software patches are crucial, but your data can still be compromised if your firewall doesn’t offer multi-layer protection.

It’s important that your IT staff have modern certifications, are intimately familiar with every part of your system, and are capable of outlining a detailed plan prior to the security scan. What’s more, they must follow strict criteria when running the scan, or the results might be unreliable or generate false positives.

Your staff must also produce comprehensive and detailed documentation on every aspect of the network, explaining the tests done, vulnerabilities found, and suggested mitigation steps.

Scans include, but are not limited to:

  • Host-based (servers, laptops, drive configurations, such as user and data directories, port scan)
  • Wireless-based, including employee business phones, VoIP, WiFi
  • Application-based, checking for out-of-date or missing security features

Planning Remediation after a Network Vulnerability Assessment

After the scan is complete, a detailed plan of action must be prepared, keeping in mind the various regulations that must be followed for compliance certification.

Once the plan of action is complete, it is time for implementation. Care must be taken to minimize the impact on the organization, while at the same time ensuring the implementation is done correctly. Compromising the process in the name of expediency or convenience can cause problems down the line.

Once the vulnerability assessment report is complete, your business staff must be informed of any strengthened security measures. It’s important that your staff follow established security protocols when logging in, logging out, and moving data to the cloud and back. This applies to mobile phones and apps as well.

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Prevention Is The Most Effective Defense

Ensuring your network is secure before a malicious actor attempts to breach it is the best way to avoid the bigger problems resulting from an actual breach. A proper security assessment costs far less time and money than an after-the-fact repair.

If it has been some time since your last network vulnerability assessment, we can help. Our trained professionals have the experience and equipment necessary for performing a vulnerability test of your system, and we’ll also provide a comprehensive report on its health.

In fact, we offer an online security assessment for businesses like yours to assess security preparedness.

Identify and Fix Network Vulnerabilities With Fusion Computing

Reduce your worries of security breaches, compliance fines, and regulatory updates by hiring experts whose vulnerability assessment methodology is second to none.

At Fusion Computing, we work with you to identify risks and implement security solutions to ensure network security. Let us worry about compliance and data protection, while you focus on growing your business.

Learn more by discussing your needs with one of our specialists.