How To Detect Network Vulnerabilities?

Vulnerability scan detects and classifies the weaknesses in software, hardware, or organizational processes. It scans the potential threats and predicts the effective measures and countermeasures to mitigate the risk.

Around 84% of companies have high-risk vulnerabilities on their external networks.

Thus, with the increasing number of potential threats, performing network vulnerability scans and assessments have become important to identify and remediate vulnerabilities on your network.

Let’s quickly understand how a network vulnerability scanner works before we jump to types of vulnerability scanners.

How Does Network Vulnerability Scanning Works?

Network vulnerability scanning uses a database of known vulnerabilities in services and ports or anomalies in packet construction.

It then scans software to detect any known vulnerabilities and looks for outdated components of operating systems and applications. It also helps find any configuration errors and assign a risk score.

Operational Modalities

Vulnerability scanners can be categorized based on scan direction, level of access, and scope of device:

1- Scan Direction

There are two types of scan directions:

  • External Scan: External scanners scan servers, applications, and network firewalls that can be attacked by malicious outsiders. It checks for vulnerabilities including web-layer security problems, infrastructure weaknesses, and security misconfigurations.
  • Internal Scan: Internal scans are performed within your network to identify internal vulnerabilities. Internal scans detect missing third-party patches, unpatched known vulnerabilities, and common vulnerabilities, such as Heartbleed and DROWN.

2- Level of Access

Based on the level of access privileges, vulnerability scans can be of two types:

  • Unauthenticated Scan: An unauthenticated scan is performed as an intruder without trusted access to the network. It reveals vulnerabilities that can be accessed without gaining network access.
  • Authenticated Scan: An authenticated scan is performed when the tester logs in as a network user. It reveals vulnerabilities that are accessible to a trusted user who has access to the network.

3- Scope of Device

There are two approaches based on the scape of devices scanned:

  • Limited: Limited scanners scan particular devices, such as servers, desktops, laptops, virtual machines, mobile phones, firewalls, and other network appliances.
  • Comprehensive: Comprehensive scanners focus on operating systems, installed software, and user account information across all devices attached to the network.

Types of Scans

1- Network Vulnerability Scanners

There are three common types of network vulnerability scanners:

Network vulnerability scanners identify potential network security attacks and system vulnerabilities. It can find vulnerabilities on web servers, operating systems, and other open sources.

It uses a database of known vulnerabilities to look for common flaws, such as XSS, SQL injection, and path traversal. Thus, it helps to find out unknown vulnerabilities.

Network vulnerability scans can lead to congestions. Therefore, they are usually performed once a week.

2- Web Application Scanners

Web application vulnerability scanner focuses on scanning vulnerabilities in the code of the applications.

Web application vulnerability scanners use a known list of common exploits maintained by the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP).

It is used with static application security testing tools (SAST) to analyze the actual source code and dynamic application security tools (DAST) to scan compiled code in all environments.

This scanner helps find out vulnerabilities before the release of applications into production.

3- Open Source Scanners

These are software composition analysis tools (SCA) used to identify all open-source frameworks in applications.

These scanners also help to scan and find out vulnerable codes in the codebase. 


All businesses and especially ones with sensitive data, such as finance, banking, government, or healthcare, need to have a way to detect vulnerabilities on their network.

Therefore, using a network vulnerability scanner is important for businesses to identify systems that are subject to known vulnerabilities.

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