M I S T E R S C A N N E R

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Simply put, website vulnerabilities leak to hacking. There are a number of online free tools that the hackers use to find security loopholes across the internet. Businesses need to be aware of such problems months before hackers can actually do something.

What is a vulnerability?

It is a potential security threat that bots or hackers can exploit to their advantage. While we can go in detail of vulnerabilities, their categories, and severity, this is all what it is. A weakness that hackers use to steal data, cause downtime, or assume control of the systems.

What is a XSS vulnerability scanner?

Traditionally, developers used to assume the role of a penetration tester to ensure security. However, over the last decade with exponential growth in digital businesses and hacking attempts, there was a need for something better. An automated vulnerability scanner is a smart replacement for humans. Powered by AI and vulnerability data from across the world , automated scanners can test hundreds of apps in hours.

An automated vulnerability scanner equips businesses and bloggers to assess threat severity without actually paying for expensive penetration testing services.

Is an automated XSS web vulnerability scanner better than penetration testing?

Often businesses are confused about the question. What’s the difference and should they choose one over the other? XSS Automated testing and penetration testing are not against each other. Both of them have different use cases. Penetration testing is suggested for web assets with serious exploitation risks, but automated testing is for every web property. 

In fact, successful companies use both these testing methodologies to keep hackers away. Automated testing is used for weekly/monthly assessments and penetration testing after a major update or change.

What type of vulnerabilities are covered in a website security scanner?

There are many types of web vulnerability or security scanners. OWASP and SANS have listed the top vulnerabilities that websites should prioritize. Most modern automated testing tools identify and report these vulnerabilities. 

OWASP Top 10

  • Injection
  • Broken Authentication
  • Sensitive Data Exposure
  • XML External Entities (XEE)
  • Broken Access Control
  • Security Misconfiguration
  • Cross-Site Scripting or XSS
  • Insecure Deserialization
  • Using Components With Known Vulnerabilities
  • Insufficient Logging And Monitoring

SANS 25

  • Unrestricted Upload of File with Dangerous Type
  • Improper Certificate Validation
  • Improper Restriction of XML External Entity Reference
  • Improper Control of Generation of Code (‘Code Injection’)
  • Use of Hard-coded Credentials
  • Uncontrolled Resource Consumption
  • Missing Release of Resource after Effective Lifetime
  • Untrusted Search Path
  • Out-of-bounds Read
  • Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)
  • Improper Neutralization of Special Elements used in an SQL Command (‘SQL Injection’)
  • Use After Free
  • Integer Overflow or Wraparound
  • Improper Restriction of Operations within the Bounds of a Memory Buffer
  • Improper Neutralization of Input During Web Page Generation (‘Cross-site Scripting’)
  • Improper Input Validation
  • Information Exposure
  • Improper Limitation of a Pathname to a Restricted Directory (‘Path Traversal’)
  • Improper Neutralization of Special Elements used in an OS Command (‘OS Command Injection’)
  • Out-of-bounds Write
  • Improper Authentication
  • NULL Pointer Dereference
  • Incorrect Permission Assignment for Critical Resource
  • Deserialization of Untrusted Data
  • Improper Privilege Management

It is often said that security is not an event. It is a continuous process but if you need to prioritize one vulnerability list over the other, use OWASP Top 10.  

Reducing Risk Exposure

We have talked to several business owners and cybersecurity experts in the last few months. The most common website security concern is what to do with vulnerabilities? Developers are usually swamped in tickets and business priorities. How would one solve the issues?

  • Create estimated mitigation timeline. Developers can pick ‘Critical’ or ‘Red’ vulnerabilities immediately and solve the other issues as they get time
  • Deploy a Web Application Firewall.This will help stop the threats before you fix them in the code. However, choose a WAF carefully. Most open-source WAFs can cause serious latency if you deploy a bunch of complex rules. 
  • If you can afford it, run an assessment warning report on a TV screen in the developers’ area.
  • You do not have to research from scratch to mitigate a security risk. Most web vulnerability scanners offer a thorough report with expert recommendations on how to solve the security threats.
  • Keep security research and learning repository. Developers, security advisers, and freelancers can learn from issues that have been solved in the past. It is not uncommon for the companies to encounter similar security flaws frequently. 

Other Considerations

There is no doubt that every website, app, and API should be tested/scanned frequently. However, we have a few observations that you might want to consider.

  • Most of the security products are interestingly overpriced. Ranging from $5000 to $11000 for an yearly assessment package, these scanning tools do not seem to have that kind of RoI.
  • Startups, small businesses, and bloggers do not need the same level of assessment as bank or financial companies.
  • Do not even try to solve every possible vulnerability. It is an impossible task but you can always pick the ones that have high potential impact. Most businesses don’t even look at ‘Low’ category of the vulneabilities. 
  • Security can be confusing. Real meaning is lost in industry jargon. You should choose a scanner with simplified reports that everyone can understand.
  • Free tools are not free. Most web vulnerability scanners offer a free version but they have limited capacity and cannot offer a lot.
  • One-time testing is not enough. If you are doing it just to get a clean-certificate, it will cost dearly when hackers exploit a weakness. Schedule weekly or daily scans with a tool that does not charge you a lot.
  • While WAF is an emerging tech, it still does not solve all of your problems.

Acunetix Web Vulnerability Scanner

Acunetix was the first website vulnerability scanner that came out in the market back in 2005. As a Dynamic Application Security Testing tool, it identifies and reports common security issues including XSS, SQLI, and CSRF.

With an online dashboard you get simplified reports. This testing scanner is compatible with third-party issue trackers such as Jira, GitLab, GitHub, TFS, Bugzilla, and Mantis.

  • Online dashboard
  • Scans for over 2000 vulnerabilities
  • Easy to use

One line description: The older assessment tool on the market.

Qualys Web Application Scanner

 Qualys WAS is one of the popular choices to find and fix issues in web apps, APIs, and IoT. Built on a robust cloud infrastructure, Qualys offers a comprehensive DAST tool that covers OWASP Top 10 risks such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), cross-site request forgery (CSRF) and unvalidated redirection.

Qualys WAS is also capable of detecting malware, issues on the API, and JS. The cloud dashboard makes it simpler to compile and report issues for the stakeholders.

  • Comprehensive scans
  • Cloud Infra
  • Compatible with API-based Connectors

One line description: The fully-cloud website security scanner.

Tenable Scanning

Automated Web Application Scanning from Tenable provides context-based vulnerability results. The assessment tool is part of their Cyber Exposure platform where you can view and manage risks across different types of network and web app assets across the business.

Tenable automated scans report the most common security flaws including OWASP and SANS lists. The safe tests are designed not to affect the efficiency or latency of your asset.

  • Unified Security Dashboard
  • Zero Latency Tests
  • HTML and HTML Support

One line description: The modern security scanner. 

NetSparker Online Vulnerability Scanner

Although one of the most experienced security assessment tools, NetSparker is not for every business. The yearly cost of this tool can easily cross $12000 a year for a medium sized business. 

The automated scanning tool identifies even the most complex vulnerabilities across every asset. NetSparker has developed a deep crawling technology that can test all kinds of web applications including custom built HTML5, Web 2.0 and Single Page Applications. The  reports include a practical guide on how to identify, prioritize, and solve the security flaw.

  • Scans Every Web App
  • Basic Plan @ $7000
  • Integration in the SDLC and  DevOps

One line description: The robust security scanner for big businesses.

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