Cyber criminals are always on the lookout for new ways to access and steal private data. According to the CyberEdge 2022 Cyberthreat Defence Report, 81% of businesses in the UK experienced one or more cyberattacks last year. A successful breach or attach can result in huge financial and reputational implications for your business. 

If you don’t want your business to become a victim of cybercrime, you need to find and fix your security weak spots – and fast. Vulnerability assessments can help you do this. A vulnerability assessment enables you to identify weaknesses and gaps in your IT environments so you can do something about them before hackers do. 

Today, there are far too many cyber threats out there for businesses to ignore the risks. From malware and ransomware to phishing and more. To best protect your business, a proactive security approach is best – and a crucial part of proactive security is through regularly assessing your landscape and searching for vulnerabilities. This can significantly reduce your exposure to threats and boost the baseline of protection across your entire IT ecosystem. 

This article will help you understand what a vulnerability assessment is and the different types that can help your business. 

What is a Vulnerability Assessment?

You can’t fix something if you don’t know it’s broken. Just like a doctor can diagnose potential health issues before they cause long-term damage, a vulnerability assessment can help you identify security weaknesses before they harm your business.  

A vulnerability assessment is a process that’s used to identify, quantify, and classify the security risks in your IT infrastructure. The aim is to find and fix system weaknesses before hackers discover and exploit them. Vulnerability assessments are typically performed by security specialists leveraging tools such as vulnerability scanning software to spot threats and flaws within your networks, systems, hardware, and applications. 

The specialists will also look to identify misconfigurations, security policy issues and process gaps that may be causing both security and compliance risks. A comprehensive vulnerability assessment assigns severity levels to identified risks, and a cyber security expert can use this to provide recommendations to mitigate security risks and close security gaps.  

When vulnerability assessments are done correctly, they should provide your business with a clear and complete report revealing the aspects of your IT environment that need attention, the potential impacts, and whether they need to be patched as a matter of urgency.  

The Importance of Carrying Out a Vulnerability Assessment 

As the threat landscape expands, cyberattacks are becoming more sophisticated – and the potential impacts of an attack have never been so severe.  The best way to protect your business is to be proactive in your security approach and always stay one step ahead of hackers.

Vulnerability assessments don’t only provide your business with the details of any security vulnerabilities in your IT environment, they also help provide IT staff with a method of managing the risks associated with them. This will ensure that your organisation is always aware of your security stature so issues can be addressed, and therefore reducing the probability of a breach. 

Types of Vulnerability Assessments  

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to conducting a vulnerability assessment. From broad to more focused assessments, are many different ways to discover problems across your entire infrastructure. 

Network assessments: Identify vulnerabilities in your wired and wireless networks which could be exploited by cybercriminals to access critical data and user workspaces.  

Application assessments: Detect issues that can be exploited through cloud-based applications. Businesses can use vulnerability scanning software to automatically detect software weaknesses or improper configurations in their web apps. 

Database assessments: Carrying out regular database assessments can prevent your business from falling victim to malicious attacks, like SQL injection attacks. 

Vulnerability Assessments vs Penetration Testing – What’s the Difference?

There is a common misconception that vulnerability assessments and penetration testing are the same. Although they both aim to reduce an organisation’s susceptibility to cyber threats, they are very different processes. Vulnerability assessments aim to find issues and risks and understand their potential impacts. Whereas penetration testing looks to test your security posture and the ability for a third-party to access critical systems and data. 

A vulnerability assessment helps to identify potential vulnerabilities within an organisation’s IT environment. It enables security teams to apply a consistent, comprehensive, and clear process to identifying and resolving security risks and threats. 

On the other hand, penetration testing takes the cyber threat identification process a step further. Penetration testing requires a skilled penetration tester to manually exploit weaknesses. Purposefully exploiting your own IT systems might seem a bit odd, but this is purely done just to measure the degree to which a potential cybercriminal could gain unauthorised access to your IT assets.  

Identify Your Vulnerabilities Before Hackers Do

As the threat landscape is always evolving, regular vulnerability assessments are essential to a strong cyber security posture. The number of vulnerabilities that exist and the complexity of IT infrastructure mean a business is almost guaranteed to have at least one unpatched security risk that makes them vulnerable. 

Discovering these weak spots before a hacker does can mean the difference between a failed attack and a costly data breach. If you need help with conducting a vulnerability assessment or require support in automating the process, 848 can help. 

The 848 Group is an experienced IT partner and Managed Service Provider (MSP) with a specialist cybersecurity practice. We are Cyber Essentials Certified and have 5 Microsoft Advanced Specialisations including Identity and Access Management, and Information Protection and Governance. 

Our cybersecurity experts can work with you to plan, build and implement cybersecurity processes that keep your business safe from all cyber threats.  

Contact us today for more information about strengthening your security posture and reducing your cyber security risk.