5 Best Network Vulnerability Scanners

By Staff Contributor on September 12, 2023

Whether you work in banking, education, or run a small business, your network’s security is essential. After all, an insecure network can result in data breaches, theft, unauthorized access, poor network performance, a tarnished reputation, and more. To better understand the state of your network and bolster your network’s defense against current and potential threats, consider using network vulnerability scanners or detection tools to quickly detect existing loopholes.

In this article, I’ll go over what network vulnerability scanning is, the key features of network vulnerability scanners, the causes of security vulnerabilities and how to manage them, and the benefits of using a network scanner, as well as five of the best tool options. Though it isn’t a traditional network scanner, SolarWinds® Network Configuration Manager (NCM) can be the right choice for detecting network vulnerabilities. Offering network auditing, network automation, network inventory, vulnerability assessment, and more, NCM is ideal for many organizations. Top 5 Network Vulnerability Scanners

What Is Network Vulnerability Scanning?

What Are The Key Features Of A Network Vulnerability Scanner?

What Causes Security Vulnerabilities?

What Are Some Top Vulnerability Management Techniques?

What Are The Benefits Of Using A Network Vulnerability Scanner?

Best 5 Network Vulnerability Scanning and Detection Tools

1. SolarWinds® Network Configuration Manager (Free Trial)

2. Wireshark

3. Intruder Vulnerability Scanner

4. OpenVAS

5. Pentest Tools Network Vulnerability Scanner

Final Thoughts On Network Vulnerability Scanners

What Is Network Vulnerability Scanning?

Network vulnerability scanning can help you identify vulnerabilities in your network, devices, and applications, giving you the information you need to better defend your organization against intruders. Several types of vulnerability scans are at your disposal, including external, internal, comprehensive, and limited scans. Carrying out an external vulnerability scan can help you identify and resolve security vulnerabilities that bad actors can exploit to gain access to your network. In contrast, internal vulnerability scans can help you detect the threats posed by those who have already penetrated your perimeter defenses, as well as malware within your network, any disgruntled employees who happen to be trusted users, and others who have gained access to your network. You can also conduct comprehensive or limited vulnerability scans to gain a more complete understanding of your network. Comprehensive scans will examine printers, switches, firewalls, servers, laptops, phones, software, open ports, and more. However, these scans require bandwidth, so limited scans may be better in certain situations.

What Are The Key Features Of A Network Vulnerability Scanner?

The right network vulnerability scanner software can make all the difference. Try to use one that can:

Provide accurate information

An inaccurate scanner can send you on wild goose chases after vulnerabilities that don’t exist or cause you to overlook genuine security threats, so it’s crucial to have an accurate, comprehensive scanner.

Categorize vulnerabilities

A network vulnerability assessment tool capable of evaluating risks will help you prioritize your network’s security threats and ensure your team is using its time to combat the most critical vulnerabilities.

Take action

A scan can unearth an overwhelming number of risks, so addressing network problems can be an intimidating and time-consuming process. However, the help of a scanner equipped with automated responses to specific vulnerabilities can save you time and stress.

Provide reports

Scanners capable of creating quality reports about your network’s security status will save you time when it comes to showing compliance with various regulations.

Adapt and scale

Your network is unique and will likely change over time, so adaptability and scalability are essential in any tool.

What Causes Security Vulnerabilities?

Combatting security vulnerabilities is challenging because there are several ways to compromise networks. However, there are several common causes behind security vulnerabilities and breaches, including:

Account abuse

Insiders can abuse their user privileges, resulting in data leaks or misconfigurations, so it’s vital to carefully assign privileges, examine credentials, and remove unused groups and users from your network.

Improper network structure

An open network structure can wreak havoc if an authorized user gains access to your network. Once they’re in, they’ll be able to access every part of the network, so segment your network and pay attention to user group privileges.

Unknown devices on the network

Unmanaged or unidentified assets on your network could signal that someone has access to your network who shouldn’t, so you should routinely check which devices have access to your ports.

Third-party applications

Third-party applications can be useful but are often riddled with holes and introduce new security vulnerabilities to your network once installed.

Poorly configured security settings and infrastructure

Your network security settings and infrastructure can also create security vulnerabilities. Improper management can result in serious risks, so keep an eye on your firewall and operating system configurations.

Web configuration errors

Similarly, web configuration errors can introduce security vulnerabilities to your network, so you should be wary of HTTP misconfigurations, expired SSL certificates, distributed denial-of-service attacks, and insecure code.

Missing updates

Hackers can easily exploit out-of-date programs and devices to access your network.

What Are Some Top Vulnerability Management Techniques?

Should a security vulnerability arise, you’ll want to engage in top network vulnerability management techniques to ensure as little damage is done as possible. Penetration testing will show you how an external threat might access your network to steal data. While it’s expensive and time-consuming, it’s a very effective way of identifying your network’s security gaps. For a less time-consuming option, you might use beach and attack simulation software to regularly and automatically test and validate your network and security measures. While antivirus software only focuses on identifying, preventing, and removing malware, it can still help keep your network safe from threats, such as Trojans, spyware, and ransomware. Similarly, web application scanners take a focused approach and will identify vulnerabilities in your web apps, such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and misconfigurations. Configuration management is also key to managing vulnerabilities, as hackers often gain access to networks by exploiting misconfigurations and missing patches. Not only are these risks generally relatively easy to fix, but neglecting to address them can result in noncompliance.

What Are The Benefits Of Using A Network Vulnerability Scanner?

With countless potential holes in your network, staying on top of vulnerabilities is challenging. Using network vulnerability scanner software will give you increased visibility over your entire network, helping you quickly pinpoint weaknesses and take action to prevent costly data breaches, even as your network and devices evolve. Beyond simply identifying and providing information about weaknesses in your network, some network vulnerability scanner tools can provide recommendations to mitigate risks or even take action automatically to resolve the issue. A scanner tool can also help you identify applications and systems that fall through the cracks and discover unauthorized devices, systems, and remote access servers on your network. Using network vulnerability assessment tools will enable you to take preventative security measures and actions against current vulnerabilities before it’s too late.

Best 5 Network Vulnerability Scanning and Detection Tools

There are countless network vulnerability scanning tools available, but some are better than others. Here are our five picks for the best network vulnerability scanners or configuration management tools with vulnerability detection features on the market today.

1.   SolarWinds® Network Configuration Manager (Free Trial)

SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager (NCM) is a comprehensive configuration management tool. It offers powerful vulnerability detection features alongside its configuration capabilities. Configuration changes and improper monitoring are major sources of vulnerabilities. Thanks to NCM’s configuration change monitoring and alerting features, you’ll know exactly when and how network configuration changes occur, so you can prevent any unauthorized changes and the vulnerabilities they introduce to keep your network compliant. Not only does NCM offer automated network configuration management and backup, but it can also roll out firmware fixes and standardized configurations to hundreds of devices simultaneously. You can even create remediation scripts that can be automatically or manually executed. Either way, you’ll be able to quickly reconfigure non-compliant devices to help ensure they meet standards. NCM can quickly scan your network devices’ firmware and let you know which login ID was used to make each configuration change, helping keep your network secure from insiders and outsiders. NCM also integrates with the National Vulnerability Database and the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures database, enabling you to see which Cisco® firmware vulnerabilities you should prioritize. On top of that, NCM has robust reporting capabilities. NCM is built to give you a complete inventory of your network, information regarding configuration changes,  insight into your network’s compliance, and more. Out of the box, NCM can perform Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST®), and Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA®) Security Technical Implementation Guide (STIG) compliance reporting. Plus, NCM is part of SolarWinds ecosystem, meaning you can easily integrate it with many other SolarWinds products, such as Network Performance Monitor, enabling you to have more insight into and control over your network. To see if SolarWinds NCM is right for you, sign up for a free, fully functional 30-day trial.

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2.   Wireshark

Wireshark is a free and open-source network protocol analyzer that uses packet sniffing to understand network traffic in real time and converts binary data into a format you and your colleagues can easily read and understand. With Wireshark’s help, you can detect vulnerabilities and suspicious activities on your network so you can design effective countermeasures. It can even categorize attacks and implement rules to help protect your network, no matter what you’re up against. Compatible with OS X, Windows, and Linux, offering support for over two thousand network protocols, and featuring continuous network traffic scanning, Wireshark is suitable for many organizations. However, this tool has a learning curve, as you’ll need to carefully configure and manage Wireshark to ensure it meets your specific needs.

3.   Intruder Vulnerability Scanner

Streamlined and compatible with most commonly used architectures, this cloud-based subscription vulnerability scanning service offers continuous scanning for missing patches, exposed databases, bugs in web applications, outdated software, configuration problems, open ports, default password usage, and other weaknesses. Plus, it updates its database of attack vectors each time a new one is discovered and can even send notifications via email or Slack, so you can stay on top of your network. In addition to offering an excellent interface, Intruder delivers actionable vulnerability reports, including a list of all system features and whether they need to be hardened. Intruder is built to detect vulnerabilities in databases, web applications, and operating systems and recommend patches for any outdated machines. With three levels of scanning services on a monthly or annual basis (Essential, Pro, and Verified), you only pay for what you need with Intruder. All three plans offer emergency scans when new vulnerabilities are detected and a scheduled monthly scan. However, Pro includes on-demand scanning, while Verified offers human penetration tester services. You can also access a free trial to determine if Intruder is right for you.

4.   OpenVAS

OpenVAS (Open Vulnerability Assessment Scanner) is a highly regarded open-source vulnerability scanning tool and network vulnerability management system initially launched in 2009. Built for all-in-one scanning, OpenVAS offers search capabilities for over 26,000 common vulnerabilities and exposures. It features a community-sourced vulnerability database and generates exportable reports that list any vulnerabilities found and offer explanations and remediation tips.

5.   Pentest Tools Network Vulnerability Scanner

When it comes to Pentest Tools Network Vulnerability Scanner, you have two options: the light, free version or the more robust, paid version. The light version is optimized for speed and performs a fast network security scan to detect common vulnerabilities and exposures, such as open ports and services or other known vulnerabilities that have been linked to specific versions of software systems. However, this version solely relies on the system version reported by the service, which can result in false positives. For a better experience, you can upgrade to the full version of the Network Vulnerability Scanner, which comprises proprietary Sniper modules combined with OpenVAS and allows for detecting high-risk vulnerabilities. The paid version runs in-depth scans, using over 57,000 OpenVAS plugins and custom modules without sacrificing its easy-to-use interface. This version can detect SMTP, VPN, SSH, HTTP, and VNC vulnerabilities by sending crafted packets to the network service and reviewing the response. It can even perform multiple parallel scans, automatically sort vulnerabilities by risk, and provide recommendations for handling detected security issues. Compare plans today.

Final Thoughts On Network Vulnerability Scanners

Manually conducting network vulnerability detection takes a lot of time and effort, but a powerful network vulnerability scanner or a network configuration management tool with vulnerability detection features can be a game-changer. With the right solution, you can stay on top of loopholes and weaknesses in your ever-changing network and prevent bad actors from gaining access to your network. There are plenty of great network automated tools available, but SolarWinds Network Configuration Manager is one of the best options available. Equipped with automated network configuration backups, network inventory software, and vulnerability detection features, NCM is a comprehensive tool that makes understanding and protecting your network while saving time and meeting regulatory compliance requirements easy. Discover if NCM is the right choice for your organization with a 30-day free trial.

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