Vulnerability assessment is the process that determines the risks and threats in your system by using automatic software. With this assessment, the vulnerabilities, configuration errors, and certain failures in the target systems are identified. A report is prepared at the end of the assessment and conveyed to the related individuals.
Note: Vulnerability tests are frequently confused with penetration tests. The vulnerability assessment test is a step inside the penetration tests. Penetration tests include more operations regarding the target system.
Vulnerabilities increase the usage risks of IT systems. These might lead cyber attackers to penetrate IT systems and cause problems in terms of using these systems. To dispose of possible risks, vulnerability assessment and reporting are necessary for certain periods or after each IT system change.
There are five steps of a good vulnerability assessment that will help you use your resources more efficiently.
Note: Remember that vulnerability assessment is done with automatic tools. These tools automatically scan the system depending on the scanning type for a certain scope.
It would help if you started by identifying which systems and networks will be assessed (including backend of mobile apps, databases, and cloud systems), the sensitive data's location, and which data and systems are the most critical. Ensure that all units have the same expectations from the outcomes of vulnerability assessment and keep the communication lines open throughout the process.
Actively scan the related scope manually (you need a good reason for manual scanning) or using automatic tools. Use open-source data and vulnerability databases to identify cybersecurity vulnerabilities and filter false/positives. The number of vulnerabilities with the first assessment can be especially high. If you can contact the individuals who know the scope that you scan, your work for the eliminating and next-step analysis will be easier. By asking them short questions to clean the false positives, you can facilitate your work on the next step.
The scanning step is followed by a more detailed analysis process that gives a clearer idea about vulnerability reasons, potential effects, and recommended improvement methods. Each vulnerability is scaled depending on the data under risk, the weight of vulnerability, and damage that might arise from the affected system breach. This step's main idea is to measure the threat and clearly identify the urgency behind each vulnerability or the risk level and potential effect.
The third step's improvement process will help with prioritizing analysis process outcome and handling the most urgent vulnerabilities at first. Additionally, it is important to note that some vulnerabilities might have a little impact, and it might not worth the cost and downtime for improvement.
You need to regularly apply vulnerability assessment because any assessment is the only instantaneous look of that moment. The assessment can be done every 3 months or weekly, depending on the scope. If any big changes are done on your network or system at any time, an additional vulnerability assessment is recommended.
After a vulnerability assessment, the only outcome of the work is a vulnerability assessment report.
Without a clear and well-structured report, your client might not understand the scale of the threat they are facing, or they need to take a step to decrease this threat.
One of the most important sections of a vulnerability assessment report is the executive summary. The executive summary section should include:
* Assessment date: The assessment date range is important as this will show the current state of the scope, tested vulnerabilities (you will not be responsible for the vulnerabilities that arise after the test), and the time required to eliminate these vulnerabilities. The first sentence could be as follows. "This report contains the output of vulnerability assessment conducted between 22/02/2021 - 25/02/2021."
* Scope: This is the summary of the general scope. Here, the scope is not separately written as an IP or domain name. A number or the project name of the scope can be assigned. For example: "Total of 4 databases and 50 web applications are included in the scope."
* Assessment general status: The summary section must make a general assessment in terms of risk for the readers. Here, you can summarize the vulnerability categories or general status. "In short, 10 critical, 5 urgent, and 4 medium-level findings are detected, and the details are given below." The graphics in this section will add value to your report.
* Limitations and Methodology: This section is important to have the same perspective as your client. In this section, you need to provide information about the software you use or software methodology. The outcome of your vulnerability assessment is directly linked with the software and methodology you use. And one day after your check, a highly critical vulnerability can occur. You need to explain this clearly to your client. "We have used the most current version of Acunetix, Nessus, and S4E: Shelter software in our tests and the report for vulnerabilities detected by the software without vulnerability exploit and penetration control to the related tests."
Then, you can provide the findings related to how you score the vulnerabilities, which you have communicated with, and additional graphics.
Categorizing the findings is directly focused on client needs. In some clients, the teams managing the scope you are testing can be different. In this case, you need to follow an asset-based categorization—for example, the vulnerability of 126.96.36.199 IP address, the vulnerability of 188.8.131.52 IP address, etc. Thus, you can divide your client's report, and the vulnerabilities will only be conveyed to the manager of the related scope. These types of reports are generally longer.
Another method is vulnerability-based categorization. For example, if a vulnerability called `old version application use` exists in multiple IP addresses, you can write down the vulnerability and add the scope under this title. This will help you write reports faster, but your clients might need to spend more effort to divide the vulnerabilities into related units.
The fundamental purpose of both the assessment and the following report is to correct the vulnerabilities; therefore, the report should pay special attention to provide guidance to eliminate the current problems while preventing future problems and offer recommendations.
The first and most important tip is the quality of the executive summary. An explanatory executive summary is the clear mixture of vulnerability location, impact area or endpoint, and vulnerability type. The executive summary must focus on the main topic and give a clear idea about the report reader.
The security team, program owners, and clients will not have much time to read the report's very long explanations; therefore, the explanations must be short. If you want to create a clear and short explanation, you need to ensure to add links or references to reliable resources for others to understand, identify and solve the problems. In this case, you can add CVE references or OWASP source links as examples.
The report section prepared from a cyber attacker's perspective has certain steps that the security team can follow. Adding images or videos to explain the complex steps will eliminate the complexity and make sure that the team can follow the steps. Make sure to add all necessary steps to solve the problem quickly and make these steps more specific.
The effect reflects the importance level of the report. A strong report refers to the attack result of the attacker and explains what the attacker can do. Additionally, this report states which data attackers can access and how it can affect the entire system users. It is best to present a more realistic scenario to the security team regarding how future attackers can exploit a certain problem.
Solutions recommendations for the possible problems will enable the security team to save time to research a solution. If the main reason for the problem is clear, and if the business or organization has a certain amount of knowledge regarding this vulnerability, it is better to present solutions.
When you are writing a vulnerability assessment report, remember that the reader might not have your technical knowledge level. Ensure that the report is written with explanatory and simple sentences and adds references for technical information. With that, write a complete summary in the executive summary section by considering that a high-level manager might read the report. Also if you need a sample report just email us.
An effective and comprehensive report for your client is often the only outcome of your work. A simple and clear vulnerability assessment report will make the report stronger. Contact with us today to have a vulnerability assessment of your business and obtain the results as a report.