Every 39 seconds, there is a new attack somewhere on the web. And the victims of these attacks could be anyone – a multi-million dollar corporation, or a small business trying to make some online sales. It does not matter whether your business has a global significance or if it is in trend for some reason, every business with digital assets is at risk of being hacked. And a vulnerability assessment report is what shows you where the risk lies and how you can mitigate that risk.
In this post, we will talk about vulnerabilities, the detection of vulnerabilities, and vulnerability assessment reports with our primary focus on the last one. By the end of this, you will have learned about different components of a vulnerability report, how an ideal report helps you manage the vulnerabilities, and how it can help your business thrive in the long run.
What is a Vulnerability?
A vulnerability is an exploitable gap in the security of your website, application, or network. It takes root from a bug and may result in a hack. According to a 2019 study, 46% of all websites were operating with critical vulnerabilities while 87% had medium-risk vulnerabilities. A vulnerability may occur due to a misconfigured security patch, a gap in input validation, weak passwords, outdated software, or infected plugins among other things.
An average website is regularly scanned for common vulnerabilities by malicious bots. It is almost impossible to anticipate a vulnerability as it creeps in. And you are far more likely to fall prey to mass attacks owing to the common security vulnerabilities present in your systems than a targeted attack designed specifically for you.
If a vulnerability is exploited it can give the hacker privileged access. They can steal data, hijack your devices, or deny service. Either way, it ends in you losing business time, money, reputation, and reliability.
What is a Vulnerability Assessment?
A vulnerability assessment is a process of identifying, categorizing, and reporting security vulnerabilities that exist in your website, application, network, or devices. Usually, it is an automated procedure involving different types of vulnerability scanners. It helps your detect security risks like SQL injection, cross-site scripting, outdated security patches, broken access control, among other common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs).
A vulnerability assessment tool is designed to test for the CVEs enlisted in security enhancement projects like OWASP top 10, and SANS top 25. However, the scope of vulnerability assessment is not limited to these enlistments.
What is the process of vulnerability assessment?
Vulnerability assessment has a four-step process:
Step 1. The scope of the vulnerability assessment is determined by identifying the sensitive data storage areas, the systems running on a network, internet-facing assets, and devices.
Step 2. An automated vulnerability scanner is engaged to root out all the potential vulnerabilities in the systems within the scope of the assessment.
Step 3. A vulnerability assessment report is prepared with analytical information on the vulnerabilities found – the severity and risk score of the vulnerabilities, the possible ways to remove those issues, etc.
Step 4. The testee organization has to segregate the false positives from genuine issues, then fix the issues to strengthen their security.
As promised earlier, we will talk in some detail about the 3rd step of the process, i.e. the vulnerability assessment report.
What is a Vulnerability Assessment Report?
A vulnerability assessment report is a document that records all the vulnerabilities found in your systems during a vulnerability scan. The report provides you with a list of the vulnerabilities indexed by severity along with suggestions for fixing the vulnerabilities.
The vulnerability assessment report is basically the result of the vulnerability scan, and it is what helps you understand the security posture of your organization, and build a strategy for vulnerability management. Let us learn more about its importance.
Why is a vulnerability assessment report important?
The primary goal of vulnerability assessment is to give the target organization a clear idea about the security loopholes present in their systems. The vulnerability assessment report is the medium of this information. The following are some specific advantages of a vulnerability scanning report.
- Efficient vulnerability management: The vulnerability report categorizes the vulnerabilities according to the risk posed by each of them. It helps a company prioritize the remediation of critical vulnerabilities. They can allocate the resources where it is needed the most, and thus get the most out of the process.
- Compliance management: The vulnerability assessment report helps a company identify the areas of security they have to spend on in order to gain compliance with relevant regulations.
- Building trust: A vulnerability report confirms how secure a company is. It helps them build trust among the customers.
- Reduce insurance premiums: A lot of companies insure their websites against cyber attacks. The insurance premiums are significantly less for companies that conduct regular vulnerability scans and have a positive report.
- Remediation of vulnerabilities: The vulnerability assessment report comes with suggestions on how to fix certain vulnerabilities. These suggestions work as guidelines for developers trying to fix the issues.
What are the components of a vulnerability assessment report?
A vulnerability scan report is usually divided into 3 parts. An executive summary, the details of the vulnerabilities, and the details of the scan. Let us understand the significance of each segment.
The executive summary: As the name would suggest, the executive summary is meant to create a high-level understanding of the vulnerability situation of an organization. This part talks about the vulnerabilities, their CVSS scores, the impact they could have on the business, and how much risk they pose to the system they’re in.
The details of vulnerabilities: This is the part where each of the detected vulnerabilities is explained with technical details along with suggestions for fixing them. This is the most important part of the vulnerability report from a developer’s perspective because this part allows them to plan the remediation.
Details of the scan: Vulnerability assessments involve hundreds of test cases. All these tests have to be documented in the report. This part tells you what tests were conducted, their categories, whether they were manually done or automated. All this information is very important in terms of validating a vulnerability scan.
What are the challenges of reading a vulnerability assessment report?
A vulnerability assessment report is usually a PDF file stuffed with information about the vulnerabilities as well as the tests conducted. While the executive summary does give an overview of the situation, the technical details are often too security-specific even for IT professionals.
- It is long
- Difficult to understand without security acumen,
- Often fails to trigger action.
What makes a vulnerability assessment report truly actionable.
The success of a vulnerability scan is in the remediation of the issues that are found during the scan. A truly actionable vulnerability assessment report helps an organization work on the vulnerabilities with ease. Small changes in the approach to presenting a vulnerability report can make a lot of difference.
Visualization of the vulnerability analysis can help you identify the critical vulnerabilities and assign them quickly to developers.
The risk score of vulnerabilities that combine severity and impact and a accurate amount of potential loss incurred by an issue can further help with resource allocation at the time of remediation.
A vulnerability report that contains video POCs for the developers to reproduce and fix vulnerabilities can speed up the process manifold.
Vulnerability Assessment Report by Astra Security
With 3000+ tests, coverage of OWASP top 10 and SANS 25, and features like continuous scanning through CI/CD integration, scan behind the login, and compliance reporting, Astra’s Pentest is by far the most practical vulnerability assessment tool you can get your hands on. However, our focus will be on the reporting aspect in this post.
The interactive dashboard: The best part about Astra’s Pentest is that you do not have to wait for the vulnerability assessment report in order to start working on the fixes. The interactive dashboard assigned to each user by Astra lets you view the vulnerabilities as they are found, along with the risk information and the suggestions for remediation.
Compliance reporting: The pentest compliance feature on Astra’s Pentest dashboard allows you to view the compliance status of your business in terms of vulnerability management. As vulnerabilities are detected in the scan, you can see which compliance regulations are failing due to a certain vulnerability.
On top of these, Astra’s Pentest reports are complete with video POCs to help developers reproduce and fix the vulnerabilities. You can also get in-call assistance from security experts.
Time is of the essence when it comes to security testing and vulnerability management. The more actionable the vulnerability assessment report the better your chances of timely mitigation of the risk. Make sure you read a sample vulnerability scan report before engaging a vulnerability assessment company.
1. What is the timeline for vulnerability scanning?
The automated process of vulnerability scanning takes a few hours.
2. What is the cost of vulnerability assessment?
The cost of vulnerability assessment is between $99 and $399 per month.
3. Can I schedule vulnerability scans for future product updates?
Yes you can. You can also integrate Astra’s Pentest with CI/CD platforms and automate vulnerability scans for product updates.