Most data breaches are easily avoidable by taking a proactive stance. By contrast, businesses used to rely primarily on reactive measures, such as conventional antivirus software. However, while these measures are still important too, they only kick in once a threat has already made it past your network, potentially causing serious disruption in the process.
More than ever, businesses must focus on proactively identifying and closing vulnerabilities in increasingly complex and disparate computing infrastructures. This is essential for achieving a high level of cybersecurity maturity, as well as meeting the demands of SOC 2 compliance and other standards.
What is an external vulnerability scan?
An external vulnerability scan is one such proactive measure that thoroughly scans your digital assets from an outside perspective. In many ways, a vulnerability analysis works like an actual cyberattack in that it uses similar methods to those hackers use to penetrate your network.
System vulnerability scanning is essential for achieving compliance by proactively identifying vulnerabilities on a regular basis. It is highly recommended that companies carry out external vulnerability scans quarterly, as well as every time any significant changes are applied to the infrastructure.
External vulnerability scanning evaluates your entire network for potential issues that could leave your digital assets exposed to the outside world. As such, it is also known as perimeter scanning. This includes scanning every user account and endpoint, such as vulnerable web applications and network-layer vulnerabilities. It should also incorporate scanning of remote work environments, such as cloud-hosted virtual machines and user accounts. After all, the concept of the perimeter has changed a lot in the age of mobile computing, remote working, and internet-connected smart devices.
#1. Identify unpatched vulnerabilities
Most vulnerabilities are easy enough to remediate, but you need to know where they lie first. Many issues, such as unused accounts and outdated operating systems and firmware, are easily overlooked. With more endpoints than ever before, hosted across an increasingly wide range of different systems, automation is an essential part of this process.
SOC 2 compliance demands proactive cybersecurity, so the first step is to achieve complete visibility into your network assets. That way, you can identify operating systems and devices that haven’t been patched with critical security updates, outdated security protocols, and more.
#2. Locate poorly secured endpoints
There are many possible single points of failure in today’s typical computing infrastructures. One of the biggest challenges is figuring out where they lie. Some of the most common cases include employee-owned mobile devices, user accounts belonging to previous employees, or poorly secured internet of things (IoT) devices.
External vulnerability scanning begins with building a complete inventory of every networked device and system, including those hosted in the cloud. It will then scan these systems for any potential issues, such as weak access controls and problematic firmware.
#3. Resolve network configuration errors
While cloud companies are often the first to get the blame when it comes to data breaches, the truth is that most incidents target poor configurations. The responsibility to maintain these configurations often falls to the end user. This includes things like enforcing password policies, multifactor authentication, and other user-level access controls. In other cases, it might be a matter of changing security protocols and applying end-to-end and endpoint encryption.
Vulnerability scanning provides a complete view of your current configurations and highlights any potential risk areas, such as weak user access credentials and other issues, giving you a chance to resolve them before it’s too late.
#4. Prepare for network topology changes
Today’s business networks are dynamic and ever-changing. New user accounts and systems are added all the time, along with new services and resources being rolled out to meet rising demands. However, while unavoidable, network topology changes and updates also increase risk if they are not applied according to rigid standards, such as those laid out by SOC 2.
Related article: SOC 2 Requirements Checklist with IT Managed Services
Since it’s very risky to carry out changes and upgrades without knowing where your existing vulnerabilities lie, vulnerability scanning makes it easier to prepare for changes and upgrades without adding unnecessary risk.
#5. Check for outdated security protocols
As cyberthreats continue to evolve and advance, so to do the measures necessary to protect against them. For example, the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) security protocol was, for years, the universal standard for protecting web-based communications. However, it has since been succeeded by the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol, which is far more secure. External vulnerability scanning will detect things like outdated protocols and flag them for review.
Other protocols that are not considered vulnerable even include older versions of TLS, such as version 1.0 and 1.1. The current version is 1.3, so it’s important to detect any systems using an outdated security protocol and update them accordingly.
Charles IT provides comprehensive vulnerability scanning to identify potential risk areas and help you prepare for passing your SOC 2 audit. Call now to schedule your gap assessment!