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VULNERABILITY ASSESSMENT AND PENETRATION TESTING (VAPT) – AN IMPERATIVE PERIODIC RITUAL FOR INFORMATION ASSET PROTECTION

Internet-facing systems and applications pose security risks. These security risks are the results of vulnerabilities present within the systems and applications which can be exploited for malicious purposes. A vulnerability is any mistake or weakness within the security procedures, design, implementation, or any control that will lead to the violation of the system’s security policy. Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT) employs a holistic approach to defending the cyber assets of an organization. Combining both Vulnerability Assessment (VA) and Penetration Testing (PT), VAPT addresses the questions “What are the issues within the network?” and “What can be determined attacker do to comprise the network?” Vulnerability Assessment focuses on internal organizational security while Penetration Testing looks to mitigate external risks. Hence, VAPT provides enterprises with a more comprehensive evaluation of the threats facing their applications, systems and networks. This enables enterprises to better protect their systems and data from malicious attacks.

Vulnerability assessment employs assorted automated tools and manual testing techniques to determine the security posture of the target system. It is aimed at network devices, servers, and systems to spot key vulnerabilities and configuration issues that an attacker can benefit from. It is generally conducted within the network that consists of internal devices and since of its low footprint, it is can be performed frequently. This process identifies all the breach points and loopholes that can be leveraged by an attacker to perform fraudulent intrusion activities. Penetration testing focuses on identifying the assorted possible routes that an attacker can use to gain access to the network.

It also identifies the potential damages and further compromise to the network that an attacker can do once the attacker has gained access to the network. Penetration testing utilizes the identified set of vulnerabilities in vulnerability assessment is employed as an input vector. This process of VAPT helps in assessing the effectiveness of the security measures that are present on the organization network.

A good VAPT process should incorporate the subsequent steps:

  • Determining the objectives and scope of the process: the primary step is about the goal and scope of the assessment. It involves clearing stating the target of the assessment, determining which systems and networks are going to be assessed, identifying where any sensitive data resides, and which data and systems are most crucial.
  • Vulnerability scanning: The identified key systems and networks are scanned, either manually or via automated tools, employing threat intelligence and vulnerability databases to spot security flaws and weaknesses, and separate false positives. The goal is to find vulnerabilities that may be exploited.
  • Information gathering: The identified vulnerabilities are analyzed existing exploits or new exploits for the vulnerabilities detected are looked for or created. This helps in formulating an idea for penetrating the network and systems.
  • Exploitation phase: this is often an important step because the exploits chosen are wont to launch targeted attacks on the systems and network.
  • Vulnerability analysis and report preparation: The results of the exploitation phase are then analyzed. Each vulnerability is ranked supported the information in danger, the severity of the flaw, and therefore the damage that would be caused by a breach of the affected system. The goal is to quantify each threat and to see the amount of risk behind each flaw and its potential impact. Detailed reports are prepared which can provide a transparent sense of the causes of the vulnerabilities, their potential impact, and therefore the suggested methods of remediation for taking corrective actions.
  • Remediation: Finally, the recommendations actions must be taken to eliminate the vulnerabilities discovered. It can be done simply via a product update or through something more involved, from the installation of recent security tools to an enhancement of security procedures. The ranking provided within the report helps to prioritize this process, ensuring that the foremost urgent flaws are handled first. It’s also worth noting that some flaws may have so little impact that they will not be well worth the cost and downtime required for remediation.

VAPT Best Practices

  1. Scan every device within the network: Failing to scan every device and access point leaves the network and systems receptive weaknesses. Scanning all assets within the ecosystem helps wake up light the assorted vulnerabilities within the infrastructure and allows the formulation of a remediation plan or acceptance of risk. Additionally, create a list including all devices within the network irrespective of their function, and choose which targets to incorporate within the vulnerability scanning list from your inventory.
  2. Perform VAPT frequently: The quantity between consecutive VAPT processes may be a risk factor because this gap between scans leaves your systems receptive new vulnerabilities. The spec, device impact on the network, and other factors are the deterministic factors to determine the frequency vulnerability scanning and remediation.
  3. Prioritize the patching process: as an example, patching internet-facing devices for all discovered vulnerabilities is more important than patching similar devices that have already been blocked by settings or firewalls. Prioritizing doesn’t mean neglecting; it’s a time-management practice that’s required because of resource limitations. it’s essential to target assets that provide the best risk levels to the organization.
  4. Document all scans and their results: Every vulnerability scan should be scheduled employing a management-approved timetable, with an audit process mandated to produce detailed reports covering each scan and its results. By documenting the scan run in keeping with its approved timetable, the organization can track vulnerability trends and issue recurrence, uncovering susceptible systems, and establishing accountability.
  5. Reports should be readable to technically savvy business teams to a certain extent, but should also be accessible to non-technical management and high-level personnel, without requiring interpretation.
  6. Establish a remediation process: With documented scans results in place and a priority assigned to each device, the remediation process should dictate specific levels of severity and the urgency to remediate each discovered vulnerability, including the required time-frame.

Mitiget recommends that VAPT be carried out twice annually and after each major change in the production environment.

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