7 common types of security scans

7 Common Types of Security Scans (& What They Tell You)

Andrew Douthwaite

August 24, 2022

Summary of Key Points

  • The most common types of cybersecurity scans today are virus/malware scans, network port scans, penetration tests, rogue access point scans, program bug scans, vulnerability scans, and user permission-level scans.
  • These scans provide important insight and information into the state of your cybersecurity posture but do not tell the whole story on their own (solutions such as XDR are needed to tie all this data together).

In every organization with internet-facing connections – computers, tablets, smartphones, and IoT devices – it is important to monitor for vulnerabilities and sources for bad-actors to exploit.

Security scans are commonly deployed to identify vulnerabilities in an IT environment. Below you can read about seven of the most common and effective types of security scans used by industry professionals today.

If you would prefer to leave your cybersecurity efforts to the experts, as part of an ongoing managed services engagement, we run effective security and network vulnerability scans and take action to protect your systems. See all of our managed cybersecurity services.

Standard Virus & Malware Scan

Antivirus and malware scanning software is an essential component of every computer system. Virus and malware scanners represent the “cat and mouse” dynamic at play in cybersecurity most obviously: as viruses are released and infect machines, antivirus companies release updates that help their software identify and remove viruses.

Viruses and malware leave behind evidence of their presence, though what this looks like varies for each. Antivirus and antimalware software look for known signs of infection and then quarantine and clean the infected files.

Antivirus and antimalware software for business and enterprise applications offer more advanced functionality and remote management tools – critical inclusions for protecting networks and endpoints at scale.

Network Port Scanning

A network port scanner will send messages to all the ports on your system attempting to discover any open ports that could be exploited. Open ports are a major vulnerability that bad actors can use to infect systems, steal data, and much more.

Making sure that all your ports are closed and properly secured is a critical step in your data security strategy.

Penetration Scanning (Testing)

Penetration scanning, which is often called ‘pen testing’, is one of the most advanced types of security scans because it does not look at just one potential area of vulnerability.

Unlike most other security scans that run programs to simulate some type of attack, penetration testing actually has real hackers attempting to attack your system.

You (or your managed security provider) either hires a team of ethical hackers directly, or puts out a general bounty to groups of ethical hackers, to target your systems. If they are able to find any vulnerabilities, they will notify your security team of the risk so that it can be addressed.

Rogue Access Point Identification

Most systems today are going to have some type of wireless connectivity that allows laptops, smartphones, and other devices to access it.

Correctly configured private wireless networks can be quite secure (whereas public wifi networks are very much the opposite). When someone sets up a wireless access point improperly, however, it will result in an opening for attackers.

Rogue access point scans an area for any access points and confirms that they are supposed to be there while also looking at your network to see if any remote access points were set up without authorization.

Program Bug Scanning

Software is an essential component of any computer system. Even if you only purchase software from legitimate sources, it will likely contain bugs and other vulnerabilities.

Since software is regularly updated (both to add new features and address identified bugs), new bugs are often created over time. This is why scanning your software for known bugs is important.

Advanced bug scanning can even help to identify new bugs that are not yet known. If a bug in the software you use is discovered, the software can be disabled until it can be fixed.

Common Vulnerability Scanning

Common vulnerability scanning is often called brute force scanning. There are thousands of different types of known system vulnerabilities that hackers attempt to take advantage of. This type of security scan will go through and run tests against each of these known risks to see if your computer systems are at risk for any of them.

Running this type of scan on a regular basis will ensure your systems are checked for emerging threats as they become known.

User Permission Level Scanning

User permission level scanning looks for risks related to the biggest security threat all computer systems have: the end users and their devices. The most important thing any company can do to secure their network is to make sure that each user only has access to the systems they need, and only has the permissions to do the things that are required for their job.

User permission level scanning will identify all user accounts that have things like administrator level permissions to systems, or access to sensitive files or other information. The goal is to ensure that only those who actually need this type of permission have it. For highly sensitive data or systems, you can even identify the accounts that need it and require dual authentication so that no individual user can perform actions that could put the systems at risk.

Conduct a Proper Security Posture Assessment

All of the above-mentioned security scans are great tools on their own but should not be relied upon exclusively.

To ensure your systems are safe, you need to have a proper security posture assessment performed. This looks at your overall digital security strategy to ensure that it is effective against today’s ever evolving threats.

Our team at VirtualArmour can work with you to perform a comprehensive security posture assessment to help discover what you can do better to keep your environment secured.

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