You might have heard that 84% of companies suffer from high-risk vulnerabilities and hackers exploit these same vulnerabilities to deploy nefarious cyberattacks! But what exactly does security vulnerability mean?

Vulnerability in the cybersecurity industry means a security loophole, which attackers exploit for hacking purposes. Attackers find these weak areas using various techniques and tools – and then deploy a cyberattack to get unauthorized access to the system. Here are some vulnerability examples.

  • Errors in software codes
  • Outdated or weak encryption algorithms
  • System misconfiguration
  • Weak, easily guessable passwords
  • Lack of input validation in forms
  • Unpatched third-party software/applications
  • Data transfer via insecure channels like HTTP
Even people with poor cyber awareness are also considered to be a security vulnerability for an organization. If employees click on the wrong link, download malicious files, respond to a phishing email or visit an infected site, the hackers can easily break into an organization’s system and hack it. Even small negligence by employees like creating a weak password or using the same password for all office accounts and personal accounts can also put the company in danger.

Security vulnerability’s concept includes physical assets, too. If IoT devices like laptops, printers, modem, router, physical server, internet-connected television, cell phone, medical equipment, etc., are not protected with a strong password or if they have any configuration loophole, a hacker can use these devices as an entry point. They can spread malware through these devices or intercept the communication between two endpoints. Hackers also disrupt the operations and ask for a ransom to restart everything.

There can be many instances where procedures themselves are faulty, creating a loophole in the defense mechanism. If rights and access privileges are not set properly, an unauthorized person can access the confidential information. In the same way, let’s say a company has a weak entry system to the office premises. It is using a card system instead of biometrics and if an attacker steals an employee’s card, they can enter the premises using it and reach the employee desks, IoT devices, and documents.

Vulnerability detection can be done in defensive and offensive ways. The defensive method includes detecting the vulnerabilities in the current security posture. While in the offensive method, cyber-attacks are stimulated from outside to cripple and disrupt the defense mechanism.

Role of Automated Vulnerability Scanners

Security vulnerabilities can take place at any time, and you have to identify them before the hacker does. That means vulnerability detection must be done continuously. This is where automated scanners come in handy. These AI/ML-backed scanners generally use a predefined framework like NIST NVD or MITRE CVE  to decide a baseline and search for the known vulnerabilities. These scanners analyze all the software codes, configuration, logs, endpoints, ports, and networks to detect the vulnerabilities. Some scanners are periodic in which you need to schedule the scanning time interval. While others work 24/7/365. That means the vulnerabilities are found at the earliest.

These are some famous free/freemium opensource vulnerability framework that offers free scanning facilities:

  • OpenVAS,
  • Nexpose Community,
  • Metasploit Framework,
  • Nikto

There are private vendors available too that provide paid vulnerability scanners as a standalone service or as part of their vulnerability-as-a-service (VMaaS) program.

Manual Vulnerability Testing

Organizations hire threat hunters, penetration testers, and white hat hackers to search the vulnerabilities manually. They try to insert malicious codes, use bots and tools to deploy various cyberattacks on the system to test them without causing any harm. They employ the same methods as hackers do, but without damaging anything.

It includes manual penetration testing, fuzz testing, integration testing, black-box, white-box testing, etc. Manual testing is often more useful in finding zero-day vulnerabilities, which automated scanners miss. Here, the security researchers think like an attacker and find unique techniques to access the system.

Companies can outsource this work to the firms that offer pen testing as a service (PTaaS).

Security Vulnerabilities in Physical Premises

As we stated earlier, a security vulnerability isn’t limited to online resources, but it includes your organization’s physical facility defenses as well. Companies will create an in-house security team to detect vulnerabilities in office premises or outsource this work to a third party.

This process includes facility surveillance and physical device checking. The security team tries to enter the physical work premises without authentication by doing lock picking, tailgating, credential forgery/impersonation, tampering with passwordless authentication methods, etc. They also test phones, modems, printers, and all other IoT devices to see if they can hack those devices to eavesdrop or steal any information or insert malware in them. The team also checks employees’ desks randomly and try to access their computer, files and important document when employees are not around, to see whether employees keep important stuff properly locked and inaccessible for intruders.

Vulnerabilities Detection Via Social Engineering and Phishing

Human error, including employee negligence, is one of the biggest cyber threats for companies. And hence, an employee or vendor without proper cyber awareness is also a considered vulnerability. The security team develops sophisticated phishing scams for employees, like

  • sending phishing emails,
  • sending messages on social media profiles,
  • creating malicious wi-fi connections (evil-twin),
  • making fake websites that look similar to popular websites, etc.

They try to lure employees to share confidential information about the company, share credentials, or click on the malware-laden links and install malware. The goal of this program is to make sure employees don’t fall for the trap and check their awareness level.  

What is a Red-Team Exercise in Security Vulnerabilities?

The red team exercise is an allrounder approach to finding vulnerabilities, in which the security team takes aggressive steps to break into your defense system. They stimulate multi-layered cyber-attacks, which includes,

  • penetrating with codes and commands,
  • imitating various cyberattacks,
  • testing networks, wi-fi, modem, phones, servers, and ports,
  • executing social engineering scams, and
  • trying to break into the physical premises without authorization.

Of course, these activities are done in a way that doesn’t cause actual harm to the organization.

Final Words on Security Vulnerability

Unpatched vulnerabilities cause 60% of all breaches. That means companies must get ahead of hackers at every turn and security vulnerabilities as well. As mentioned, a vulnerability in cybersecurity is not limited to intangible online assets, but it also covers less vigilant employees and other stakeholders. Similarly, if an unauthorized person enters the office premises and accesses your employees’ devices, they can also steal important data or cause disruption. But there are some tools and techniques available in the industry, like automated vulnerability scanners, manual penetration testing, red-team exercise, etc., that companies can utilize to detect and patch the security loopholes before it’s too late. Also, organizations should provide necessary cyber awareness training to all employees to prevent them from becoming the weakest link in your cyber defenses.

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