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How do vulnerability scanners work?

March 01, 2021
Securing sensitive information and data protection are recurring issues in the IT universe. It's increasingly noticeable that companies are exposed at any time to cyber-attacks – and this can often start from vulnerabilities that your security team hasn't found.

There are tools such as the vulnerability scanner, which help identify and map security gaps and flaws in your environment to circumvent such incidents.

This instrument is essential for companies that want to count on advanced security over sensitive data. To better understand the functionality, the positive and negative points of a vulnerability scanner, some items were dedicated throughout the text.

What does a vulnerability scanner do?

A vulnerability scanner can continuously monitor networks, applications, and devices for vulnerable points to cyber-attacks and errors. Besides, it reports changes in detail, categorizing risks and suggesting corrective actions. In this way, companies can identify, correct and mitigate risks, protect assets, and improve security with each new vulnerability discovered.

The main attributes of a vulnerability scanner are: making analyzes to categorize breaches, scanning systems, identifying vulnerabilities, preventing cyber-attacks, and mitigating risks.

How does a vulnerability scan happen?
Vulnerability scans are performed by an application that may either be proprietary or open-source. The application checks for vulnerabilities that are already known by manufacturers and the community or for weaknesses that cybercriminals have already exploited.
A vulnerability scanner can search for thousands of vulnerabilities on a network or its host systems, such as software bugs, missing operating systems patches, vulnerable services, unsafe default configurations, and vulnerabilities in web applications. Thus, through the analyzes made, it becomes possible to automate security auditing processes.
Advantages of the vulnerability scanner
Below are listed some benefits of applying a vulnerability scan to companies:
● Automated scanning;
● It can be scheduled and is easy to use;
● Detects known vulnerabilities;
● Fast, capable of producing results within a few hours;
● The latest exploits are loaded;
● It can be more cost-effective than pen-testing;
● Ability to perform multiple scans simultaneously;
● Doesn't require any special expertise.
Disadvantages of the vulnerability scanner

Among the disadvantages assessed are:
● It doesn't provide an overview of the process nor substantial insights, only an image of the current state;
● Cannot detect vulnerabilities that haven't been mapped yet. The time between updates leaves the organization vulnerable;
● Produces a high level of false positives at times (estimated at 30% - 60%);
● Lacks an appropriate adversary model threat scenario;
● Uploads require an internet connection;
● Meant for non-critical systems, far less for critical real-time systems;
● Can demand too many resources on critical assets and cause an operation to fail.
In this way, a vulnerability scanner can only find known vulnerabilities or threats. Problems related to misconfiguration, misusage of the infrastructure, or security solutions will not be mitigated.


Companies are exposed to cyber-threats at any time, and any asset available for network traffic can become a vector for vulnerabilities. Therefore, to offer proper security, it is fundamental to map all of your environment continuously.
A vulnerability scanner can help your team checking for numerous risks in networks and systems. Besides, it automates security auditing, becoming a central part of the organization's IT security.

Source: HiveCore

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