What Are the Different Types of Vulnerability Scans?

There are 14 different types of vulnerability scans that a business can conduct for valuable insight into the current volume and severity of network vulnerabilities. Read about them below.

Blog Post

9 minute read

Mar 20, 2024

Before medical imaging devices were invented, medical professionals had very little information on which they could base their diagnosis. However, after X-ray machines and eventually ultrasound and then MRI technology came about, doctors were able to detect, diagnose, and treat a much wider range of health issues with more specificity and speed.

This demonstrates the importance of assessment and diagnosis when problem-solving. Vulnerability scanning helps identify weaknesses across your network so that you can generate specific solutions and patch security issues that would otherwise be left unattended.  

With how sprawling enterprise networks can be, there are several types of vulnerability scans and each is designed to help monitor different aspects of your environment.  

Types of Vulnerability Scans

If you’re looking to take your cybersecurity  defense to the next level, Impact can help you get started with best practices and a modern cybersecurity strategy designed for sophisticated cyberattacks.  

What Is a Vulnerability Scan?  

Vulnerability scanning is a process used to identify security weaknesses in a computer system, network, or application. These scans are typically automated and involve scanning a network or system for known vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, or other issues that could potentially be exploited by attackers.  

The goal of vulnerability scanning is to identify and prioritize potential security risks so that they can be addressed and patched before getting hit by malicious actors. Vulnerability scans can be performed using specialized software tools or services, and are an important part of maintaining the security of your IT infrastructure over time.

How Vulnerability Scans Work

A vulnerability scan works by systematically examining a network, system, or application for known security weaknesses or vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers. The process involves automated scanning tools or services that employ various techniques to identify potential vulnerabilities.  

Here's an overview of how a vulnerability scan typically works: 

  1. First, the scanning tool initiates communication with the target system or network. For external scans, this communication typically occurs over the internet, while internal scans are conducted within the organization's network infrastructure.
  2. Once communication is established, the scanning tool begins to probe the target for vulnerabilities. This may involve various techniques such as port scanning to identify open ports and services, service enumeration to determine the type and version of running services, and vulnerability fingerprinting to identify known vulnerabilities associated with detected services.
  3. The scanning tool then compares the identified vulnerabilities against a database of known vulnerabilities, often referred to as a vulnerability signature database or vulnerability repository. This database contains information about common security vulnerabilities, including their descriptions, severity ratings, and potential impact.
  4. Based on the results of the vulnerability assessment, the scanning tool generates a report detailing the vulnerabilities discovered, along with recommendations for remediation. The report typically includes information about each vulnerability, including its severity level, affected systems or applications, and suggested mitigation measures.
  5. inFinally, the organization responsible for the scanned systems or network can use the vulnerability scan report to prioritize and address identified vulnerabilities by applying software patches, updating configurations, or implementing additional security measures to neutralize the identified risks effectively. 

The Types of Vulnerability Scans

Now that we’ve reviewed how vulnerability scans typically work, let’s take a look at all the varieties of vulnerability scans you can conduct and how they contribute to a more secure organization:

  1. Internal Scanning: Internal scanning looks at the internal network and systems from within the organization's network perimeter. It aims to identify vulnerabilities present in devices, servers, and applications accessible from within the network. This type of scan is crucial for identifying potential threats and weaknesses that may exist inside the organization's boundaries. 
  2. External Scanning: External scanning is the scanning the organization's external-facing systems and assets from outside the organizational perimeter. This scan helps identify vulnerabilities that attackers could exploit from the internet or other external networks. It's essential for understanding the security posture visible to potential attackers. 
  3. Authenticated Scanning: Authenticated scanning involves conducting scans using valid credentials to access systems and applications. Through authentication, the scanner can access deeper levels of information, including configuration settings and installed software versions. This type of scan provides more accurate results as it can identify vulnerabilities specific to the authenticated user's access level. 
  4. Unauthenticated Scanning: Instead of using credentials, unauthenticated scanning relies on alternative techniques such as port scanning or vulnerability fingerprinting. While it provides a broader overview of potential vulnerabilities, unauthenticated scanning may not find weaknesses that require authenticated access to accurately detect. 
  5. Assessment Scanning: Assessment scanning evaluates the security posture of an organization's systems and networks comprehensively. It encompasses various scanning techniques, including vulnerability scanning, configuration auditing, and compliance checks. The goal is to assess the overall security of the organization's IT infrastructure and identify areas for improvement. 
  6. Discovery Scanning: Discovery scanning focuses on identifying and mapping all devices, servers, and assets connected to the network. It helps organizations understand their network topology, including the presence of any unauthorized or unmanaged devices. Discovery scanning lays the foundation for subsequent vulnerability assessments and security management efforts. 
  7. Compliance Scanning: Compliance scanning involves evaluating systems and networks against predefined security standards or regulatory requirements. It ensures that the organization's IT infrastructure aligns with industry best practices and regulatory mandates and mitigates the risk associated with non-compliance. 
  8. Host-Based Scanning: Host-based scanning scans individual devices, such as servers, workstations, or endpoints, for vulnerabilities and security misconfigurations. It focuses on the specific characteristics of each host, including installed software, running services, and system configurations. Host-based scanning is crucial for identifying vulnerabilities that may be unique to a particular device or operating system. 
  9. Network Scanning: Network scanning reviews the entire network infrastructure to identify active hosts, open ports, and potential security vulnerabilities. It helps organizations understand the layout of their network and identify potential entry points for attackers. Network scanning is an essential component of both network security management and risk assessment. 
  10. Web Application Scanning: Web application scanning assesses the security of web applications and services hosted on web servers. It identifies vulnerabilities such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and insecure authentication mechanisms. Web application scanning helps organizations secure their web applications and protect against common attack vectors targeting web servers. 
  11. Port Scanning: Port scanning involves scanning a network to discover open ports on devices and services. It helps identify active services running on networked devices and assess potential entry points for attackers. Port scanning is a fundamental technique used in vulnerability assessment and network security monitoring. 
  12. Database Scanning: Database scanning investigates the security of databases and database servers for vulnerabilities and misconfigurations. It helps identify weaknesses such as weak authentication mechanisms, outdated software versions, and insecure database configurations. Database scanning is critical for protecting sensitive data stored in databases from unauthorized access, modification, compromise, and exploitation. 
  13. Source Code Vulnerability Scanning: Source code vulnerability scanning analyzes the source code of applications and software for security vulnerabilities and coding errors. It helps identify issues such as buffer overflows, injection flaws, and insecure coding practices. Source code vulnerability scanning is an essential part of secure software development practices and helps developers identify and remediate security vulnerabilities early in the development lifecycle. 
  14. Cloud Vulnerability Scanning: Cloud vulnerability scanning involves assessing the security of cloud-based infrastructure, platforms, and services for vulnerabilities and misconfigurations. It helps identify issues such as exposed data storage, insecure cloud configurations, and vulnerable cloud-based applications. Cloud vulnerability scanning is crucial for ensuring the security of cloud deployments and mitigating risks associated with cloud-based services.

Each type of vulnerability scanner differs slightly and offers IT and security professionals visibilty over different aspects of the network environment as a whole.  

By establishing a regular schedule for automated vulnerability scans across your network, you’ll be able to keep track of vulnerabilities as they emerge and address them with appropriate security solutions.  

Wrapping Up on The Different Types of Vulnerability Scans

One of my favorite realizations in life is that no one can know what they don’t know. This is why vulnerability scanning is such an important part of creating a secure business network – it helps you identify gaps in your network security so you can proactively build patches and implement security solutions.

By conducting regular vulnerability scans across different aspects of your network, you’ll have a lot more visibility into any glaring security risks or vulnerabilities that may have otherwise been left unidentified and unaddressed.

Take the security of your business network to the next level by establishing a regular cadence for vulnerability scans so you can both identify and strengthen any gaps in your cybersecurity strategy.

Cybersecurity is a fairly large umbrella that encompasses several different processes, tools, and sophisticated software. On top of that, it requires experts who can properly execute and guide cybersecurity practices. Get started building your comprehensive cybersecurity strategy with Impact today. 


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