Network vulnerabilities can manifest in many forms. It's critical that you remain on the lookout for some of their most notable signs and work to address them sooner rather than later.
There's no denying the severity of the threat posed by cyberattacks and breaches to organizations of all kinds, across both the public and private sectors:
- According to data compiled by the Identity Theft Resource Center, 1,272 data breaches have affected U.S. private-sector organizations in 2019 (as of November 13), exposing more than 163 million confidential records.1
- The majority of breaches (71%) are financially motivated, per Verizon's 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report. Meanwhile, according to a joint IBM-Ponemon Institute report, the average cost of a single breach worldwide is $3.9 million.2
- Ransomware attacks are particularly and increasingly prevalent, especially against health care facilities and state or local government agencies.3 And the types of ransomware deployed are more complex than ever.
These facts all point to the big-picture existential threat posed by cyberattacks and network security threats. It's apparent that the possibility of sustaining such an attack is far too big to ignore. But, how do you determine the level of danger your organization is in? It's time for you to look for key signs of network vulnerabilities and begin working to address them as rapidly as possible, based on the risk they pose to your business:
4 key signs that vulnerability assessment is necessary
Let's go over the key signs that you can identify as clear indicators of potential network and software vulnerabilities:
#1. It's been a while since you’ve performed an assessment
We'll start with this one because it's the simplest to recognize and one of the most important: If more than a month has passed since the last audit of your organization's IT security architecture, now is a good time to begin a new assessment. And if you don't remember when your last security check-up was, it's definitely been too long.
Malicious online actors alter and advance their tactics at breakneck speed – faster than the cybersecurity experts who are working on the other side of the line. As such, there's a chance the countermeasures you previously approved – or recently added to the system – aren't capable of appropriately monitoring for the most cutting-edge cyberattacks.
#2. The IT budget is short on security
Every segment of every organization is responsible to the bottom line in one way or another. This can mean some aspects of operations are emphasized, from a budgetary and resourcing perspective, while others fall by the wayside. Although it varies by industry, cuts often occur – not surprising, considering the average company spends just 3.28% of revenue on its tech resources.4
The reporting capabilities of a comprehensive network vulnerability assessment solution like Nessus can amass data to help make the case for allocating more funding and resources to cybersecurity. Evidence of potential vulnerabilities and their concrete impact will also be valuable.
#3. Observable unawareness of cybersecurity among staff
All successful cyberattacks are breaches, because hackers had to defeat your network's defenses (or circumvent ordinary channels, as in social engineering-based hacks) to introduce malware to your system. But not all breaches are cyberattacks. If confidential information accidentally falls through the crack due to human error, that's a breach, even if it's quickly contained. (Only 31% of employees receive regular cybersecurity training,5 so it's not exactly a matter of assigning blame.)
If a review of employees' network activity reveals signs of unsafe practices, a vulnerability assessment will suss out how compromised you are and reveal what segments of security architecture most need improvement.
#4. Disorganized accounts
Managing account access is a fundamental cybersecurity task. And, a quick look at the inventory of user accounts on your network can reveal the need for a vulnerability scan. Old accounts of former employees that aren't instantly deactivated represent a clear point of potential exploit (either by the ex-staffer or someone who hacks them).
Not dissimilarly, accounts that don't look genuine are a major sign of unscrupulous activity: Hackers often use fake network accounts to disguise whatever harm they're doing to a network, be it the installation of spyware or something more nefarious like a rootkit providing complete control of one or more computers.
Of course, the signs depicted above aren't the only indicators of trouble in the network – or the possibility thereof – and the need for a vulnerability assessment. But as some of the easiest signals to detect, uncovering them can go a long way toward developing a more comprehensive portrait of your organization's Cyber Exposure.
Choosing the right vulnerability scanner
Once you've determined you need a vulnerability assessment, how do you go about it the right way? And, how can you be sure you're using the best possible tool? Here are some key things to look for:
- Comprehensive coverage: You effectively hamstring an assessment if it examines some facets of your network meticulously, but doesn't showcase issues in others. The platform you use should allow for complete discovery, whether physical, virtual or cloud assets.
- Accurate analysis: Some vulnerabilities will be more pressing than others, so establishing a hierarchy of which threats to address first is critical.
- Ease of use: Using a solution that's accessible to non-experts can help facilitate better awareness of cybersecurity throughout the organization.
- Reporting and analytics: Quantifying the state of your network's security through use of pertinent key performance indicators and detailed reporting of assessment findings is an absolute must.
Nessus Professional has the strength and comprehensive functionality to thoroughly assess your organization's vulnerabilities.
1. 2019 Data Breach Report, Identity Theft Resource Center
2. 2019 Report: Cost of a Data Breach, IBM
3. Ransomware attacks on US local governments and healthcare providers are on the rise, CNN, October 8, 2019
4. Technology Budgets: From Value Preservation to Value Creation, Deloitte Insights, November 2017
5. 2019 Cyber Risk Survey, Chubb