The web is a dangerous place, where lethal dangers can hide in the most innocent places. A simple java applet or Flash video can conceal malware which can wreck a user’s computer. And as for attachments and .exe downloads – who knows what horrors lie behind a single click?
Because of this, a whole industry has developed around online safety, and websites themselves are one of the major points of focus. The code which makes sites run is inherently vulnerable to hackers – and developers need to know that they have minimised these risks. But how is this done?
Although most of us don’t see it, website vulnerability scans save us a lot of stress and pain. So let’s look at these essential tools, how they work, and why we rely on them so much.
Introducing website vulnerability scanners: What do they do?
Website vulnerability scans provide a snapshot of how safe a site is for casual browsers, alerting site managers to potential threats before they become a chronic danger.
As such, these tools are an absolutely fundamental aspect of how the web operates. Without some way to assess the safety of sites, developers would be shooting in the dark, crossing their fingers and hoping that the sites they design are safe to use.
Scanning websites can head off key vulnerabilities, but they aren’t alone. Companies tend to couple in-depth scanning with employing advanced malware and antivirus checking and creating training programs for every single employee.
Most importantly, they usually combine website vulnerability scans with reliable Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). These tools encrypt their data, ensuring that they can analyse sites and exchange information without worrying about leaks. If you’re new in VPN industry, we suggest trying SurfShark, as it’s cheap, easy to use for beginners and reliable at the same time. Read SurfShark review to find out all insights.
Elements of website vulnerability scans
Scans take a few different approaches, but all have the same goal in mind: ensuring that the code underlying a website isn’t vulnerable to attacks like SQL injection. For instance, here are just a few things that website vulnerability scans will check to make sure everything is safe and sound:
- HTTP headers
The headers which provide signposts to connect websites to the wider web are a key weakness, facing risks from threats like CRLF Injection and HTTP Response Splitting. Both can take sites offline or inject covert threats for users.
- SSL Certificates
SSL certificates prove to web users that sites are secure, but they need to prove their credentials to achieve this status. Website vulnerability scans ensure that these certificates are valid and watertight – and not themselves a security threat.
- Web server updates
Outdated servers are a major security threat, allowing hackers to take control of the infrastructure which stores website data. Attackers don’t necessarily need to meddle with HTML code or Java. Instead, they can just hijack out of date servers and work from there. So website scanners will often make sure that the hardware and software lying beneath sites is as advanced as it can be.
As you probably know, Macromedia Flash has been seen as a major vulnerability in the past, but many sites rely on it to deliver video content. Because of this, website vulnerability scans will take great care to analyse the code which delivers Flash content, ensuring that it’s impervious to injection attacks.
Reasons to make website vulnerability scanning a routine security practice
Each site will have its own unique recipe of diagnostic tasks. But it might all seem a bit abstract so far. So what is the real value of the website vulnerability assessment industry?
- Efficiency and speed
An underrated aspect of vulnerability scanning is its ability to clean up website code and architecture. Few other auditing tasks take as many features into account, and read outs from vulnerability scans are an invaluable tool for coders who want to optimise their sites.
So aside from security benefits, website scans are a key tool for businesses that want to understand how their website work. With that knowledge, they can start thinking about optimising customer experience and generally debugging their sites to make them as slick as possible.
- Keep hackers at bay
However, there’s no doubting the most important role played by website vulnerability scans: online security. Websites face a multitude of potential dangers.
For instance, SQL injection attacks exploit weaknesses to gain access to the databases held by public organisations and companies. A slight error in configuring a comments field can give hackers the leverage to inject the code needed to mount such an attack – leading to crippling data leaks.
- Build security skills within an organisation
The other main benefit of website vulnerability scanning is that it builds experience and knowledge within a company. These scans “get inside” the networks and code which make up their sites, allowing IT staff to get a feel for how everything comes together.