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App Security Insights

Vulnerability Scanning: What No One Is Talking About

Apr 3, 2018, 11:23:30 AM / by SEWORKS team

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Getting a full scope of how possible it is for your mobile app to get hacked can be overwhelming. These days, hackers are coming up with new tactics to break into systems daily. How are you supposed to keep up with that? A lot of people do not want to face the full awareness of how susceptible they are and, in turn, do not properly protect their valuable data.

Vulnerability scanning is an essential security process that involves using one device to look for weaknesses in the mobile app’s safety on another device. This first device exposes the doorways that hackers will find and waltz through. Small sized businesses often convince themselves that they are able to monitor their security enough to not leave any such doorways open.

In order to succeed at this, they must be willing to look at the factors that are easy to miss. This article will break down vulnerability scanning, what hard truths each company must face, and how to thoroughly protect yourself from hackers.

Understanding the Threats

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If you are going to understand the amount of protection you require, you will need to become extremely familiar with these terms:

Vulnerability.

A vulnerability is a weakness in a system’s programming that could allow a hacker entry. They can exist in file permissions, cached files, configuration files, and backup files. Application errors may also lead to vulnerabilities if a transaction is left unfinished or the system crashes and the user remains logged in. Once these vulnerabilities are located, developers can then carry out penetration tests to determine where the weakness resides and if it can be fixed.

Exploit.

Once a hacker discovers a vulnerability, they will attempt to use it to their advantage, this is referred to as exploiting. This will allow them to gain financial information or even be able to locate the individual using the device. If gone undetected, exploits can cause a severe amount of damage that is very difficult to come back from.

Threat.

Threat is the term used to describe the event that could possibly take place if a hacker uses the vulnerability to their advantage. The threat usually involves an exploit because that is the most common and easy route a hacker knows how to take. The threat is a result of the risk that has been taken based on the security measures put into place in the network.

You will never be able to be absolutely guaranteed that you are protected from hackers, but knowing your vulnerabilities and how much of a threat they are puts you way ahead of them. You need to accept that you will never be completely vulnerability free. Then you may be able to at least have a gauge on what needs to be done to keep the hackers at bay.

Facing the Facts no one is Talking About

Everyone knows it, but most people in the industry will not admit aloud the fact that there is no real security solution that can provide you with perfect protection. It’s better to know that all you can do is try your hardest, face the hard facts, and use all of the tools that are out there.

You will be way better off if you acknowledge:

Defenses do not work the same for everyone.

Most security tactics only work for certain platforms and versions. It usually will not fully accomplish what a customer is hoping for. So many elements of each platform are unique to itself that it is impossible to achieve total coverage for everything.

Your staff may not be sufficient at monitoring your defenses.

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Though you may have a great security software, your staff may not fully comprehend how to use it. It also often happens that an employee has too much on their plate and they aren’t paying full enough attention to deploying the software.

They do what they believe is a considerable amount of effort, but it is not their first priority. Once this employee gets confident with understanding the protection tool, they will pay attention to it less and less. Security devices will not protect you by themselves, they need the right people to watch and interpret them who will then take the appropriate action when necessary.

Hackers just need one in.

Every element of your system must be protected. If one server is not configured perfectly, a hacker will find it with their vulnerability scanner and then they’re in. It is not hard for them to find the one weak link amongst many strong ones, that is what the scanner is designed to do.

Hackers have many different ways of attacking.

We must humble ourselves by acknowledging that we are not as quick as hackers are. Each time a threat is discovered in the IT and security industry, it takes a while to find a way to protect themselves against it. By this time hackers have already found another way to get in and are no longer depending on that tactic.

All they need to do is make a few adjustments to their approach and the security systems will get thrown. The industry was still struggling with protecting PCs when hackers had moved onto mobile devices.

Every threat that was being used there has made its way to the mobile universe and security systems are scrambling to catch up. No matter what the device is, hackers will attempt to target it and use it for their benefit.

No one security solution will completely fix the issue.

Security solutions are designed to address a particular set of threats. One solution will work on one part of security and the hacker will simply look for another way in. The real issue is, you do not know who is attacking you. You do not know when or where they are coming from.

The internet allows for complete anonymity, and hackers know how to use the internet better than anyone. As long as this is true, protecting ourselves from them will feel impossible. You cannot keep them away, but you must do everything you can to keep them at bay.

Taking all of the Proper Precautions

No matter how large your business is, vulnerability scans should be conducted consistently, especially with any large changes that are made. These scans are not just for finding the vulnerabilities, you also need to know how to change the current weakness so the vulnerability won’t come back. In order to do this, you need to know:

  • that you are using the right type of program for your system
  • the appropriate number of scans necessary to protect you
  • that you are always running scans after network changes
  • the effectiveness of the way you manage your vulnerabilities is based on the amount of effort, time, and resources you devote to it
  • you need to prioritize, not just analyze
  • vulnerability scanning should not be your only method of protection

Other Solutions for Protection

You cannot just use on single security solution to establish complete safety from all attacks. Firewalls will not block viruses and malware. Data is not protected with antivirus software. You must use a collection of solutions to cover all of the bases. You have to find a balance between the different tactics and determine how they will work together to be your army. The most common security solutions are:

Peripheral Solutions: These look at the attack and keep unauthorized individuals from accessing secured data. Examples of security systems that would be considered peripheral solutions are:

  • firewalls - network access protection on the border
  • endpoint protection - containing malicious attacks before they can execute at the endpoint and evolving to combat future attacks
  • intrusion detection and prevention systems- constantly evolving tactics so approved traffic can travel through and malicious traffic is blocked

Internal Solutions: These solutions focus on finding the weaknesses before the hackers do and fixing them. Some example of internal solutions are:

  • network scanners, IP scanners, network mappers, and port scanners
  • vulnerability management software - vulnerability management will prioritize discovering weaknesses so the most threatening will be addressed first

Peripheral solutions, internal solutions, and vulnerability scanning are all essential pieces of the security puzzle. You cannot get by with just 1 tactic, and if you think you can, you are fooling yourself and exposing yourself to threats. Every peripheral security solution can be avoided by a hacker, but with vulnerability management in place, the attacker will struggle to find the internal weakness once they have entered the network. Some examples are:

  • Firewall - attacks will eventually bypass the firewall, if the vulnerabilities are eliminated then the chances of data loss and need for perfect firewall management is significantly reduced
  • Antivirus - antivirus watches incoming packets, but does not watch the system itself for a weakness that a malicious code that can be exploited

How Mobile App Security Accomplishes it All

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When it comes to protecting your mobile app, each area of security is accomplished with the use of an efficient mobile app security software. Whether you are still producing the app or it has already gone live, it is never a bad decision to commit to full coverage.

Obviously you are better off securing and evaluating vulnerabilities from the ground up, but if you have not done so, do not wait any longer to discover how you can be more secure.

The management software will assist you by:

  1. Scanning your mobile app for vulnerabilities
  2. Applying advanced protection without the need of adding anymore code, protecting all of your critical files and data
  3. Tracking and monitoring your app’s security status and keeping you updated at all times so you have the ability to control and investigate any suspicious activity

The Next Step

It is hard for people to admit that they have vulnerabilities or that they didn’t approach security correctly from the beginning. When you are a developer you are understandably proud of how thorough your building process is. On top of that, it is unsettling to accept that there are so many threats out there and that you can never truly be safe.

The only way to handle the situation smartly is to take an honest approach and admit that, though you can’t ever be sure when they will fail, you are taking all the safety measures you can.

Being in denial of danger only will make you more susceptible. Do not wait any longer, protect yourself with a program that has thought of it all.

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Topics: Vulnerability Scanning

Written by SEWORKS team