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Understanding Internal Vulnerability Scans

April 14th, 2022 | IT Security, Security Technology

Cyberthreats evolve as hackers hunt for potential vulnerabilities they can exploit, such as unpatched software running on a user’s laptop or poorly implemented security controls. As new vulnerabilities are discovered, cybercriminals evolve their attacks to target organizations that have yet to remediate these weak links within their environments. Internal vulnerability scans are key to ensuring your network surface area is appropriately protected and that your security controls are functioning as they are intended.

We will explore how internal scans work, the benefits of leveraging them routinely, and why they are essential to understanding and mitigating your internal network’s risks.

What Is Internal Vulnerability Scanning?

Internal vulnerability scans are performed at a location with access to your internal network. Internal scans dive deeper than external scans as they have greater visibility into your organization’s internal network, where there are more potentially vulnerable assets.

An internal vulnerability scan is conducted with a special type of network software that:

  • Tests your organization’s network for active devices that have active listening network services
  • Logs an inventory of those detected devices and services
  • Evaluates the services against published security databases of known security vulnerabilities.

Security vulnerabilities range in severity from simple deviations from best practices to active exploitable holes that could permit malicious software or an unauthorized user to compromise your organization’s information, security, and proper IT operations.

By understanding the breadth and severity of your existing internal vulnerabilities, you can use this information to answer the question, “How much damage could an attacker do if they were able to gain access to your organization’s internal network?”

The main goal of these scans is to verify patching to discover misconfigurations or unpatched software and log a detailed report of existing vulnerabilities across all your endpoints, such as:

  • Laptops
  • Servers
  • IoT (Internet of Things) enabled machines
  • Cell phones and other mobile devices
  • Peripheral devices like printers and scanners

Internal scan reports can help you identify trends within your organization’s network, such as the most prominent missing patches and the most vulnerable machines. These insights allow you to strategically prioritize and remediate risks in order of their potential business impact.

It is important to consider that new vulnerabilities can arise with new software updates when new hardware is installed, changes are made to your network configuration, or pre-existing vulnerabilities continue to be found in already-installed equipment companies use for everyday business operations.

Routine scanning is a key component of maintaining a secure IT environment and should be performed regularly, at a cadence consistent with your organization’s potential risk and regulatory/compliance needs.

Benefits of Internal Vulnerability Scans

Internal vulnerability scanning enables your IT team to build and maintain an IT security strategy that addresses your greatest business risks to reduce potential business impact and disruption.

These scans can help your organization detect and develop a process to quickly address common vulnerabilities, such as:

  • Missing 3rd party patches
  • Lagging implementation of patches for high-risk vulnerabilities
  • Poorly implemented security policies (e.g., access management)
  • Named vulnerabilities such as SMB (Small and Medium-sized Business) Ghost and Eternal Blue

According to the Ponemon Institute, 60% of organizations breached in 2019 were compromised because of a known vulnerability for which the patch was not applied.

Although developers quickly release an update or patch to remediate newly discovered vulnerabilities, hackers work just as fast. And organizations face slow update and patch implementation turnarounds that can leave their networks vulnerable to these internal vulnerabilities for months or years.

In 2020, 75% of attacks exploited vulnerabilities at least two years old, and 18% of attacks took advantage of flaws reported in or before 2013.

Internal vulnerability scans can help your IT security team build a proactive and effective patch management process so attacks like Log4j or WannaCry ransomware do not blindside you. Considering half of internal-facing web app vulnerabilities reported in 2021 were considered high risk, it is critical to have an IT security approach that is thorough in identifying and swift in remediating such risks within your internal network.

In the case of cybersecurity, what you don’t know can hurt you. We help our clients discover and strategically address their internal network vulnerabilities. Our internal vulnerability scan service is designed to meet your organization’s unique security and compliance needs. Visit our Small Business Managed IT Cybersecurity page to learn more about how we can help protect your business and schedule time to speak with a member of our team.