What Is Vulnerability Scanning: Definition, Types, Best Practices (2023)

What Is Vulnerability Scanning?

Vulnerability scanning is the process of discovering, analysing, and reporting security flaws and vulnerabilities. Alongside vulnerabilityassessment, vulnerability scanning is an essential step in the vulnerability management lifecycle. The process is usually performed by the IT department of a company, although there are also third-party security service providers who can take on the task. The scan may also be used by attackers two are looking for points of entry into the company’s network.

Types of Vulnerability Scans

Some vulnerability scanning solutions offer thorough coverage and can run various scan types across various environments, including on-prem, Linux, Windows, cloud, off-site, and onsite. The main types of vulnerability scans used are authenticated scans and unauthenticated scans, but there are also other types of scans that can be employed in specific situations.

Authenticated Scans

In authenticated scans, testers verify the systems from a user’s perspective. The tester logs in as a network user to check for vulnerabilities that are available to trusted users or intruders that have gained access as a trusted user.

Unauthenticated Scans

As the name implies, through the unauthenticated method, testers perform the scans without having the privileges of a trusted user, the same way as an intruder would. This type of scan reveals what are the vulnerabilities that can be accessed even without having trusted access to the network.

Other Types of Vulnerability Scans

  • External Vulnerability Scans: this type of scan targets the areas of a company’s IT ecosystem which are exposed to the Internet, or not restricted. Networks, ports, systems, applications, websites, and more;
  • Internal Vulnerability Scans: used for identifying vulnerabilities that leave your systems exposed once a threat actor or malware is in;
  • Intrusive Vulnerability Scans: such scans attempt to exploit vulnerabilities when detected. Use intrusive scanning with caution as it may interrupt your operational systems and processes, raise difficulties for your staff and customers, and highlight the potential danger and effect of a vulnerability;
  • Non-intrusive Vulnerability Scans: these scans simply identify and report vulnerabilities so that you can fix them in a timely manner;
  • Environmental Vulnerability Scans: based on the environment that your business’s technology operates in. Specialized scans are available for a variety of technological deployments, including cloud-based, IoT devices, mobile devices, websites, and more.

Vulnerability Scanning vs. Penetration Testing

A common misconception is that vulnerability scanning is the same as penetration testing, but there are major differences between the two of them:

  • The vulnerability scan is an automated high-level process executed by a software to search for potential vulnerability weaknesses, while penetration testing involves a live person actually performing the examination, searching through your network’s complexities to find and exploit weaknesses;
  • The role of vulnerability scanning is only to identify weak points in your system, while penetration testing is a process that requires a deeper understanding of the vulnerability. The pen tester will dig deeper to identify the root cause of the vulnerability. It also looks for business logic vulnerabilities that might be missed by an automatic scanner.

Benefits of Vulnerability Scanning

  • It’s Proactive: Vulnerability scanning lets you take a proactive approach instead of a reactive one to close any gaps and maintain strong security throughout your systems;
  • Meet Compliance Requirements:Cybersecurity compliance and regulations demand secure systems. Vulnerability scanning will help you keep your sensitive data protected and thus keep compliant with industry standards such as NIST, PCI DSS, and HIPAA;
  • Protection Against Threat Actors:Before threat actors can take advantage of any security weaknesses, scans must be performed and remedial measures must be taken because cybercriminals also have access to vulnerability scanning tools.

Best Practices for Vulnerability Scanning

Scan Every Device Connected to Your Ecosystem

By scanning every asset in the ecosystem, one may identify the different infrastructure flaws and create a plan for fixing them or accepting the risk. Additionally, make a list of all network devices, regardless of their purpose, and choose which targets to include in your vulnerability screening list from this list.

Make sure to assign owners to the critical assets to make it clear who is responsible for keeping the respective device in running shape, and who is affected if that device is compromised.

Perform Scans Regularly

Vulnerability scans are actually timestamps and show the state of the network at a specific point in time. The time interval between vulnerability scans is a risk factor because this gap leaves your systems open to new vulnerabilities. You must choose whether to scan weekly, monthly, or quarterly and consider the effects it will have on your business. Not all of the devices in your network will require a weekly scan, and not all of the devices in your network should be included in every quarterly scan.

Keep Track of Scans And Document Their Results

Each vulnerability scan should be planned according to a schedule agreed upon by management, with an audit mechanism required to produce thorough reports outlining each scan and its outcomes. Documenting the scan runs will allow your organization to track vulnerability trends and issue recurrence, thus identifying the systems under frequent exposure to threats.

Establish a Remediation Plan

The remediation process should specify the particular levels of severity and the urgency to remedy each found vulnerability, including the necessary timescale, once the results of the scans have been documented and a priority assigned to each device.

Prioritize Patching

Most attacks on a company’s system are linked to vulnerabilities that could have been prevented through proper patching procedures. Prioritization of asset patching can help your business with patching efficiency. It is more crucial to patch all internet-facing devices than it is to patch identical devices that have already been restricted by settings or firewalls.

However, do not confuse prioritizing with neglecting. It is essential to focus on the assets which provide the highest risk levels to your organization.

Luckily, Heimdal®’s solution can come in handy. It is a tool that you govern but runs hyper-automated. Being fully customizable, it can easily fit the needs of your organization.

The Patch & Asset Management solution provides besides fully automated patch management a full inventory management function supporting NIST CM-7 controls so that you can easily see any software assets in your inventory, their version, installed volume, and reports for compliance purposes. Furthermore, it allows you to deploy patches to your devices anytime, from anywhere in the world.

With Heimdal®’s Patch & Asset Management, you will be able to patch Windows, macOS, Linux, third-party, and even proprietary apps, all from one place.

Updates are delivered to you fully tested from Heimdal® using encrypted packages inside encrypted HTTPS transfer to your endpoints locally.

What Is Vulnerability Scanning: Definition, Types, Best Practices (1)

What Is Vulnerability Scanning: Definition, Types, Best Practices (2)

Automate your patch management routine.

Heimdal® Patch & Asset Management Software

Remotely and automatically install Windows, Linux and 3rd party application updates and manage your software inventory.

  • Schedule updates at your convenience;
  • See any software assets in inventory;
  • Global deployment and LAN P2P;
  • And much more than we can fit in here...

Try it for FREE today30-day Free Trial. Offer valid only for companies.


As we saw throughout the article, vulnerability scanning is a process that does not deserve to be neglected. The process requires to be performed regularly, as vulnerabilities can appear at any time, and without caution, we may put our business’s safety at risk. Including in your security strategy the process of vulnerability management will have a great impact on the security of your company by improving the response time to threats, and will give attackers trying to breach your machines a harder time.

If you liked this article, follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, andYoutubefor more cybersecurity news and topics.

What Is Vulnerability Scanning: Definition, Types, Best Practices (3)

If you liked this post, you will enjoy our newsletter.

Get cybersecurity updates you'll actually want to read directly in your inbox.


What Is Vulnerability Scanning: Definition, Types, Best Practices? ›

NIST defines vulnerability scanning as: "A technique to identify hosts/host attributes and associated vulnerabilities." Vulnerability scanning software can show a company where its vulnerabilities are, offer support to fix them and help you prioritize remediation efforts.

What are the types of vulnerability scanner? ›

The top types of vulnerability scanners are:
  • Port Scanner.
  • Web Application Vulnerability Scanner.
  • Network Vulnerability Scanner.
  • Host-based Vulnerability Scanner.
  • Database Scanners.
  • Source Code Vulnerability Scanner.
  • Cloud Vulnerability Scanner.
Mar 9, 2023

What are the 3 types of scanning in cyber security? ›

Scanning could be basically of three types:
  • Port Scanning – Detecting open ports and running services on the target host.
  • Network Scanning – Discovering IP addresses, operating systems, topology, etc.
  • Vulnerability Scanning – Scanning to gather information about known vulnerabilities in a target.
Aug 14, 2023

What is vulnerability scanning? ›

Vulnerability scanning is the process of discovering, analyzing, and reporting on security flaws and vulnerabilities. Vulnerability scans are conducted via automated vulnerability scanning tools to identify potential risk exposures and attack vectors across an organization's networks, hardware, software, and systems.

What are the four categories of vulnerabilities? ›

The four main types of vulnerabilities in information security are network vulnerabilities, operating system vulnerabilities, process (or procedural) vulnerabilities, and human vulnerabilities.

What are the 6 types of vulnerability? ›

In a list that is intended to be exhaustively applicable to research subjects, six discrete types of vulnerability will be distinguished—cognitive, juridic, deferential, medical, allocational, and infrastructural.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Aracelis Kilback

Last Updated: 09/11/2023

Views: 5540

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (64 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Aracelis Kilback

Birthday: 1994-11-22

Address: Apt. 895 30151 Green Plain, Lake Mariela, RI 98141

Phone: +5992291857476

Job: Legal Officer

Hobby: LARPing, role-playing games, Slacklining, Reading, Inline skating, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Dance

Introduction: My name is Aracelis Kilback, I am a nice, gentle, agreeable, joyous, attractive, combative, gifted person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.