What is Vulnerability Assessment?

By Fortra's Digital Defense

Behind every successful organization, within any industry, is an IT system. Everyone in the workforce, from top to bottom, utilizes this system's assets on a daily basis. Think about it.

Making quick internet searches, emailing potential clients, and storing data in the cloud, to give you an example, can't be done without an IT device.

However, everything comes with a price. Organizations that rely heavily on their IT assets are essentially opening the door for potential cyber breaches.

Unfortunately, cybersecurity threats are steadily increasing:

  • Cybersecurity breaches potentially cost corporate organizations, both local and global, $500 billion each year
  • Data breaches cost the average company over $3.5 billion
  • In 2019, Cybersecurity threats in the form of ransomware attacks on businesses grew over 300%
  • 2% to 4% of emails contain some form of malware
  • Business-disrupting ransomware and network security attacks nearly doubled this year
  • There were over 9.9 billion recorded malware attacks last year alone

What is the most effective method of combating these risks? A vulnerability assessment.

Thankfully, every enterprise can use the vulnerability assessment approach to ensure the safety of their networks, systems, and critical data.


Importance of Vulnerability Assessment

A vulnerability assessment is a process that allows an organization to monitor and manage every potential breach or entry point in their systems, networks, and hardware. After all, it's impossible to fix the flaws you can't see, so it's important to identify each weakness first.

However, a vulnerability assessment goes beyond your regular penetration testing and vulnerability scan. It provides a clearer picture of your current security posture that includes all data in every device, some of which may be particularly vulnerable and require immediate attention.

Every analysis also yields a useful vulnerability assessment report, which serves as a diagnostic tool for assessing the "cyber health" of your organization. IT teams can use the gathered information to improve the current system further and take an active approach toward remediation.

To defend against each new, more dangerous risk, every enterprise needs to conduct vulnerability assessments regularly for the best results.

It might help to think of it as necessary maintenance. The resources you can potentially lose from an attack far outweigh the resources needed to maintain and improve your security.


Types of Vulnerability Assessments

Learning the different types of vulnerability assessments can give your IT teams insight on which ones to prioritize. This all depends on the structure of your organization and the industry you're in. By taking a more specific approach, it's easier to defend against a particular risk:

Host Assessment

Critical servers and computer systems potentially vulnerable to attacks can benefit from a host assessment. This check involves identifying the issues in the host using a vulnerability scanner and using host-based tools to load mediator software in the target system. Then, these tools will trace the event and report it to your security analyst.

This scan typically examines services and ports that are also visible to network-based scans. With that said, a host assessment provides greater visibility into a scanned system's patch history and configuration settings.

Network and Wireless Assessment

Network and wireless assessments are processes that check the practices and policies of your private and public networks. They help prevent issues like unauthorized access.

With the help of network security scanning tools, managers of network hosts can easily fix open ports in an IP address that can cause a potential future risk.

Database Assessment

An unprotected database can create numerous risks for any organization, so your IT systems can use a check-up now and again to:

  • Identify rogue databases
  • Find insecure test environments
  • Fix misconfigurations
  • Classify sensitive data

It can also spot other vulnerabilities like SQL injections, which are statements injected into a database by malicious users that can read and update sensitive data without authorization.

Application Scans

These vulnerability assessment scans are useful for finding threats in any web application. A scan involves fixing incorrect network configurations and identifying the security vulnerabilities in an organization's web applications (and their source code).

Many security teams use these automated scans regularly on the front-end of their source code. They can carry out both static and dynamic analysis to remove software vulnerabilities and every other risky article in your web application.


Vulnerability Assessment: Security Scanning Process

Every organization needs a different vulnerability assessment approach depending on their potential risks, but each one uses the same basic structure.

Vulnerability Identification (testing)

Every vulnerability assessment process starts by determining which networks and systems need the most attention. Identify the location of sensitive data in those systems and start testing the ones deemed most critical.

Then, conduct a vulnerability scan, either manually or with the help of tools, to filter out false positives and identify security flaws and vulnerabilities. Analysts rely on vulnerability databases and threat intelligence to find these security weaknesses.

The number of vulnerabilities can seem overwhelming, especially with the first assessment, but the third step (risk assessment) makes the process more manageable.

Vulnerability Analysis

After you identify vulnerabilities in your infrastructure, the next step is to find their source and root cause. Which device or system component is responsible for the vulnerability? For instance, the primary cause might be an outdated version of an open-source library, so the solution would be to update the library.

The more detailed an assessment vulnerability analysis, the more information your analysts can use to recommend the best remediation method.

Risk Assessment

The analysts will check all operating systems, protocols, ports, services, and applications to understand the present vulnerabilities in the environment. Next, they will take each vulnerability and categorize them in different severity levels depending on one's IT infrastructure. This process can involve a penetration testing component to gauge a system's defense.

By quantifying the vulnerability, enterprises have a clearer sense of the risk or level of urgency behind each flaw and the potential impact they cause.


The main goal of a vulnerability assessment is to fix key flaws and identify the parts of your information system that hold the highest risk take priority. After using the right vulnerability assessment tool to identify each risk and ranking every one with penetration tests, your analysts may recommend the best plan of action, whether it's updating some IT assets or enhancing security procedures.

Attackers will always look for new ways to take advantage of your system's vulnerabilities, so vulnerability assessments aren't a one and done deal. Regular vulnerability assessment report creation is necessary to maintain the safety of one's assets.

Every device, application, and website on your network is a potential entry point for cyber attacks. Our proven vulnerability assessment approach uses streamlined tools to identify threats and make it easier to find the most suitable fix for each vulnerability.

About Digital Defense

Our SaaS platform supports Fortra Vulnerability Management, Web Application Scanning, and Active Threat Sweep that together provide:

  • Asset discovery and tracking
  • OS and web application risk assessment
  • Targeted malware threat assessment
  • Machine learning features that leverage threat intelligence
  • Agentless & agent-based scanning
  • Penetration testing for networks, mobile applications, and web applications
  • Compliance management. One of the world’s longest tenured PCI-Approved Scanning Vendors

Our SaaS platform virtually eliminates false-positives associated with legacy vulnerability management solutions, while also automating the tracking of dynamic and transient assets and prioritizing results based on business criticality.

Need More In-Depth Info?

Contact us and one of our experts can help with any of our cybersecurity solutions.

Contact Us

Share This