Menu Close

Vulnerability Scanning

Vulnerability scanning is a process used to identify security weaknesses and potential vulnerabilities in computer systems, networks, applications, and devices. It involves using automated tools to scan for known vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers. Vulnerability scanning is a critical component of an organization’s security posture and is typically performed regularly to ensure that vulnerabilities are identified and remediated promptly.

Key Components of Vulnerability Scanning:

  1. Automated Tools: Specialized software tools are used to conduct the scans. Examples include Nessus, OpenVAS, Qualys, and Rapid7.
  2. Databases of Known Vulnerabilities: Scanners use databases such as the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) list to identify known security issues.
  3. Target Scope: Scans can be performed on a wide range of targets, including networks, servers, applications, databases, and devices.
  4. Scanning Types:
    • Network Scanning: Identifies vulnerabilities in network infrastructure, including routers, switches, firewalls, and other networked devices.
    • Web Application Scanning: Identifies vulnerabilities in web applications, such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and other web-specific issues.
    • Database Scanning: Identifies vulnerabilities in database systems, such as misconfigurations and insecure data storage practices.
    • Operating System Scanning: Identifies vulnerabilities in operating systems, including outdated patches and insecure configurations.

Steps in Vulnerability Scanning:

  1. Planning and Preparation:
    • Define the scope of the scan, including which systems and networks will be scanned.
    • Obtain proper authorization to perform the scan to ensure compliance with legal and organizational policies.
  2. Scanning:
    • Discovery: Identify active devices, services, and applications within the defined scope.
    • Enumeration: Gather detailed information about the identified targets, such as open ports, running services, and software versions.
    • Vulnerability Detection: Compare the gathered information against databases of known vulnerabilities to identify potential security issues.
  3. Analysis:
    • Analyze the scan results to prioritize vulnerabilities based on their severity, potential impact, and exploitability.
    • Determine the risk level associated with each identified vulnerability.
  4. Reporting:
    • Generate detailed reports that include the identified vulnerabilities, their severity, and recommended remediation steps.
    • Provide these reports to relevant stakeholders, such as IT administrators, security teams, and management.
  5. Remediation:
    • Implement recommended fixes to address the identified vulnerabilities, such as applying patches, changing configurations, or upgrading software.
    • Re-scan the systems to verify that vulnerabilities have been successfully remediated.
  6. Continuous Monitoring:
    • Schedule regular scans to ensure ongoing security and to detect new vulnerabilities as they arise.
    • Integrate vulnerability scanning into the organization’s continuous security monitoring and management processes.

Benefits of Vulnerability Scanning:

  • Proactive Security: Identifies and addresses vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by attackers.
  • Compliance: Helps organizations comply with industry regulations and standards, such as PCI-DSS, HIPAA, and GDPR.
  • Risk Management: Assists in managing and reducing security risks by providing actionable insights into the security posture.
  • Cost-Effective: Automated scanning is more efficient and cost-effective compared to manual vulnerability assessments.
  • Improved Incident Response: Enhances the ability to respond to security incidents by identifying potential points of compromise.


  • False Positives/Negatives: Vulnerability scanners may produce false positives (incorrectly identifying vulnerabilities) or false negatives (failing to detect vulnerabilities).
  • Scope Limitations: Automated tools may not detect all types of vulnerabilities, especially those requiring complex exploitation techniques or human judgment.
  • Resource Intensive: Scanning large networks and systems can consume significant computational resources and time.

Vulnerability scanning is a fundamental practice for maintaining a robust security posture, enabling organizations to detect and mitigate security weaknesses proactively.

Top Vulnerability Scanners for Cybersecurity Professionals

Vulnerability scanners are essential tools for cybersecurity professionals, helping them identify and remediate security weaknesses in their networks, systems, and applications. Here are some of the top vulnerability scanners widely used in the industry:

1. Nessus

Nessus is one of the most popular vulnerability scanners, with over two million downloads across the globe. Additionally, Nessus provides comprehensive coverage, scanning for over 59,000 CVEs.

  • Developer: Tenable Inc.
  • Features:
    • Comprehensive vulnerability detection.
    • Configurable scans and policies.
    • Detailed reporting and remediation suggestions.
    • Integration with other security tools.
  • Use Cases: Network and web application scanning, compliance auditing.

2. OpenVAS (Open Vulnerability Assessment Scanner)

OpenVAS is an open source vulnerability scanner maintained by Greenbone Networks. The scanner also has a regularly updated community feed, which includes over 50,000 vulnerability tests.

  • Developer: Greenbone Networks.
  • Features:
    • Open-source and free to use.
    • Extensive database of vulnerability tests.
    • Regular updates to vulnerability signatures.
    • Customizable scan configurations.
  • Use Cases: Network vulnerability scanning, compliance checks.

3. QualysGuard

Qualys Cloud Platform is a hub for Qualys’ IT, security, and compliance cloud apps. It features a robust a vulnerability scanner that helps centralize vulnerability management.

  • Developer: Qualys Inc.
  • Features:
    • Cloud-based platform.
    • Continuous monitoring and scanning.
    • Comprehensive vulnerability management.
    • Integration with IT and security systems.
  • Use Cases: Enterprise-level vulnerability management, continuous security monitoring.

4. Rapid7 Nexpose

Nexpose by Rapid7 collects data in real-time in order to constantly provide a live view of an organization’s shifting network. Since the CVSS risk score scale is 1-10, this vulnerability scanner developed its own risk score scale of 1-1000 in order to provide more nuance. It takes factors like vulnerability age and public exploits/malware kits into account.

  • Developer: Rapid7.
  • Features:
    • Real-time vulnerability management.
    • Risk prioritization and remediation guidance.
    • Integration with Metasploit for exploitation testing.
    • Dynamic asset discovery and tracking.
  • Use Cases: Network and application vulnerability scanning, risk management.

5. Burp Suite

  • Developer: PortSwigger.
  • Features:
    • Comprehensive web application security testing.
    • Automated and manual vulnerability scanning.
    • Advanced scanning features like intruder and repeater.
    • Integration with CI/CD pipelines.
  • Use Cases: Web application security, penetration testing.

6. Acunetix

Acunetix is a web vulnerability scanner that features advanced crawling technology to find vulnerabilities to search every type of web page—even those that are password protected.

  • Developer: Invicti.
  • Features:
    • Automated web application security scanning.
    • Detection of SQL injection, XSS, and other web vulnerabilities.
    • Detailed vulnerability reports with remediation steps.
    • Integration with issue trackers and CI/CD tools.
  • Use Cases: Web application vulnerability scanning, continuous integration security.

7. Nikto

Nikto is a widely-used open-source web server scanner that performs comprehensive tests against web servers to detect vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and other security issues. It is designed for security professionals to identify potential security problems in web servers and web applications.

  • Developer: Open-source community.
  • Features:
    • Open-source web server scanner.
    • Detects outdated software, configuration issues, and common vulnerabilities.
    • Extensive plugin and test database.
    • Customizable scanning capabilities.
  • Use Cases: Web server vulnerability scanning, initial reconnaissance.

8. OpenSCAP (Open Security Content Automation Protocol)

  • Developer: OpenSCAP community.
  • Features:
    • Open-source framework for security compliance.
    • Automated vulnerability scanning and assessment.
    • Extensive compliance and vulnerability databases.
    • Integration with enterprise security tools.
  • Use Cases: Security compliance auditing, system vulnerability assessment.

9. Retina Network Security Scanner

  • Developer: BeyondTrust.
  • Features:
    • Network and endpoint vulnerability scanning.
    • Risk assessment and remediation planning.
    • Integration with threat intelligence and SIEM systems.
    • Comprehensive reporting capabilities.
  • Use Cases: Enterprise vulnerability management, risk assessment.

10. Tripwire IP360

Tripwire IP360 is a scalable vulnerability scanner that can scan everything in an organization’s  environment, including previously-undetected assets using both agentless and agent-based scans.

  • Developer: Tripwire.
  • Features:
    • Advanced vulnerability and risk management.
    • Automated asset discovery and profiling.
    • Real-time vulnerability detection and prioritization.
    • Integration with enterprise security frameworks.
  • Use Cases: Network and system vulnerability management, continuous security monitoring.

These vulnerability scanners offer a range of features and capabilities to suit different organizational needs, from small businesses to large enterprises. They help cybersecurity professionals proactively identify and address security vulnerabilities, thereby enhancing the overall security posture of their networks and systems.

Other Vulnerability Scanner Tools

  • beSECURE is a self-service vulnerability scanner from Beyond Security that can be deployed on-premise, in the cloud, or in hybrid environments. This solution offers both network and web application scanning and has a vulnerability database that is updated daily. BeSECURE focuses on efficiency and accuracy. Set up is simple and users can get started in minutes with a practical interface and automation capabilities. Additionally, with patented technology, scans have near-zero false positives.
  • Acunetix is a web vulnerability scanner that features advanced crawling technology to find vulnerabilities to search every type of web page—even those that are password protected.
  • Burp Suite is a web vulnerability scanner that is frequently updated, and integrates with bug tracking systems like Jira for simple ticket generation.
  • GFI Languard is a network and web application vulnerability scanner that can automatically deploy patches across multiple operating systems, third-party applications, and web browsers.
  • Fortra VM is a patented network vulnerability scanner that is a part of a cloud-native SaaS security platform. This security platform also offers web application scanning as well as other vulnerability management and threat assessment technology. Fortra VM focuses on accurate and accessible risk assessment, with features like Security GPA®, a informed metric that takes into account both the network security posture rating and the business risk associated with discovered vulnerabilities. Risk ratings are also tailored to an environment with risk rating based on the device’s criticality to the organization’s specific infrastructure.
  • Nmap is an open source, free security scanner that is also used by organizations for network discovery, inventory, managing service upgrade schedules, and monitoring host or service uptime.
  • Qualys Web Application Scanner is a cloud-based application that both finds official and “unofficial” apps throughout an environment, and also detects OWASP top ten risks, along with other web application vulnerabilities.
  • SAINT’s Security Suite is a holistic scanner that identifies all of the critical assets in an environment, creating asset tags and tracking them to provide faster remediation for the highest priority assets.
  • and provide network and web vulnerability assessments using Nessus technology. They use Predictive Prioritization, which combines vulnerability data, threat intelligence and data science to create a detailed risk score.

How to Chose the Right Vulnerability Scanner

While every scanner on this list is top rated, you still need to choose one that fits your specific needs. So how do you narrow it down? Here are some of the most critical considerations:

  • Implementation – Depending on your IT infrastructure, either on-premise of SaaS will be a better fit. Organizations with more restricted environments that want to limit access may do better with on-premise tools, while those working towards a hybrid or fully cloud-based approach would do better with SaaS.
  • Features – Each tool has variations in what they offer. Do you need specialized coverage for web applications or network or broad coverage for both? Will you need to audit for compliance purposes? Is automation a priority? What about localization? It’s important to determine your use cases before making your choice.
  • Ease of Use – As a foundational part of any security strategy, these tools should not be overly complicated. Running scans should be intuitive and should come with thorough, actionable report generation.
  • Customer Support – Effective support has two key ingredients: accessibility and knowledgeability. Look for solutions that prioritize customer support by providing best-in-class teams that are easy to reach and can provide on the spot product expertise.
  • Integrations – Proactive security requires multiple layers, and while each must operate independently, it’s even better if they can also work well in tandem. Finding solutions that are compatible can simplify processes and extend the reach of tools.

Related Entries

Leave a Reply