Blog: Vulnerability

By: (CISA, CISSP, Security+)

Well, maybe it used to be the question, but it is no longer a question to be asked. Scanning your network is an essential part of your security protocol to ensure that customer information is secured. So, since I need to scan my systems for vulnerabilities, where do I start?

Determine the Best Product to Scan Your System

There are many good products on the market to test for system vulnerabilities. The best method is to review different products and decide which product will take care of your needs. Not only does the product need to give you information on what vulnerabilities exist on your network, but it also needs to provide you with reporting that is easy for you to read and understand. A report is only good if you can take the information and make decisions on how to remediate the findings that it observes.

Rely on Network Vendors to Conduct Your Scanning

You may be thinking, I do not have the expertise to conduct these scans and read the reports, so what do I do now? This is where you will have to rely on a network vendor or third-party to conduct your scanning. You also need to ensure you have a contract and have conducted your due diligence with this vendor because they will need an administrative account on your network to perform an administrative vulnerability scan. User accounts can be used to scan the systems but will not give you a full representation of all your vulnerabilities. The goal is to mitigate as many vulnerabilities as possible, and a good administrative scan will help you reach this goal.

Remediate Vulnerabilities on the Network

Now that I have all this information, what do I do? REMEDIATE and DOCUMENT. Yes, those two words you always love to hear that strike fear in the hearts of man. Most, if not all, scanning software will rate the criticality of each vulnerability that is found on the network. Always start with the most critical and work your way down the list. Findings will require a knowledge of the systems you are running and an understanding of how to remediate the vulnerability. If you do not have the expertise to take care of these issues, a network vendor will need to be used at this point. Some findings require changes in Active Directory, registry settings or Group Policy. When changing these settings, making the wrong move can cause tremendous damage to your network. If one of these settings need to be changed, it is always a good practice to change the setting for one computer and test the change to ensure it does not cause issues with existing applications.

Sometimes settings cannot be changed due to the harm it causes in the system. If this is the case, document, document, document. Documentation needs to be completed that reveals the issue when you will resolve the issue, how the issue was resolved, and then verify that the issue was resolved.

Verification of the resolution is a critical part of the process. If a change is made in Active Directory, how do I know that the change has happened? If there is a change in Group Policy, how do I know if it has propagated to all the systems with the vulnerability? There are multiple ways to verify different vulnerabilities have been remediated, but the best way is to rerun a scan against the system.

Continue to Scan Your System

So how often do I need to run this scan? The frequency of the scan will be determined by your risk assessment and the size and complexity of your system. Sound familiar? Sounds like a statement that may come from your regulator or through guidance, doesn't it? If my system is not that complex, I would not have to scan frequently, but if it is complex, open to the outside world, and includes multiple users, I would need to scan more frequently.

Keep Up to Date with New Vulnerabilities

New vulnerabilities are being developed all the time, and a system that is scanned and is secure one day may be the target of a new vulnerability the next day. When you are between scans, be sure and keep yourself aware of any new vulnerabilities that may arise, especially those vulnerabilities that target your systems. Keep up to date by receiving emails from publications, vendors and regulators, and attending webinars and seminars that deal with information technology. Sound like a full-time job? It is!

So, to scan or not to scan can never be the question again.


A report of two new vulnerabilities named Meltdown and Spectre was published last Wednesday, January 3, 2018. It is a big deal because they are hardware vulnerabilities affecting pretty much everything with a silicon chip. Yes, this means microprocessors on workstations and servers, mobile phones, tablets, cloud services, and other platforms.

Currently, mitigation and recommended processes are in flux. New information, articles, and white papers have emerged daily over the last week. As you research these concerns, be sure you are referencing reputable sources and the information is up-to-date.

For now, the tricky part is that some of the early updates aimed at mitigating the vulnerabilities have yielded incompatibilities which might leave systems inoperable. (The fix might break things.) Please be cautious. Verify and test updates before installation.

The Vulnerabilities

If exploited, both vulnerabilities, which are classified as speculative execution vulnerabilities, allow unauthorized access to protected areas of memory which could allow an attacker to collect sensitive information such as passwords and nonpublic customer information.

  • Meltdown - allows unauthorized access to memory, including protected kernel memory. Affects almost all Intel processors manufactured since 1995 and some ARM processors.
  • Spectre - allows unauthorized access to memory used by other computer processes. Affects almost all processors. It has been verified on Intel, AMD, and ARM processors.


As the IT industry moves to mitigate these vulnerabilities, incompatibilities which can render systems unusable have occurred. It is of utmost importance to verify and test updates before installation. Prudently pursue and ensure the following security processes are working effectively within your organization (these are already standard elements of strong security cultures):

  • Installation of security software updates - antivirus software, endpoint security software, etc.
  • Installation of operating system (OS) updates - Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac OS, iPhone, Android, etc.
  • Installation of web browser updates - Microsoft Edge/Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, etc.
  • Installation of firmware updates for microprocessors - BIOS updates issued by computer system manufactures - Dell, Lenovo, HP, Apple, etc.
  • Prevention of malicious code execution - website blocking, website ad-blocking, phishing detection, security awareness training for users (how to spot malicious emails, not to click on links in emails), etc.

Exploits of these vulnerabilities are likely to change over time and the controls issued by hardware and software manufactures are likely to change as well. Therefore, it will be important to ensure updates are installed regularly.


Additional information provided by the researchers who discovered both vulnerabilities can be found at


HP printers are comonly detected in financial institution audits due to a vulnerable SSL version in use.  Many older models contain multiple vulnerabilities that cannot be fixed with firmware upgrades because the older printers are no longer supported.
Customers can use the HP WebJet Admin software to manage these printers through SNMP and disable the web server completely.  However make sure the SNMP community strings have been changed from the default "public" and "private".


On Thursday, October 23 2008, Microsoft released a critical out-of-cycle security update. This update addresses a vulnerability in the Windows server service that could allow remote code execution. Microsoft has rated this vulnerability Critical for all supported editions of Microsoft Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003. This vulnerability has been rated Important for all supported editions of Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008.

The update addresses the vulnerability by correcting the way that the Server service handles RPC requests. Additional technical details on the vulnerability and update can be accessed at:

As a best practice, RPC functionality should not be exposed directly to the Internet. However as a precaution, CoNetrix recommends applying the update available from Microsoft as soon as possible.

If you have any questions or need assistance with this update, please contact CoNetrix at or call (800) 356-6568.


On July 8, security researcher Dan Kaminsky announced he planned to reveal details about the DNS vulnerability (DNS cache poisoning) at Black Hat.  Since then, many technology vendors have provided patches to help fix the flaw.

Kaminsky has provided a "DNS Checker" self test on his website - see his personal blog at


On April 8, 2008 Adobe released a Security Bulletin regarding vulnerabilities with various versions of Adobe Flash Player.  In the Security Bulletin they recommend upgrading to the latest version of Adobe Flash Player (at least to version or higher).  However, various reports were published today from security firms and security related websites reminding users about the threats associated with continuing to run earlier versions of Adobe Flash Player.[more]  If you have not already verified your system(s) (or your companies systems) have the "patched" version of Adobe Flash Player, you should do so.  You will need to check for both Microsoft Internet Explorer and FireFox.  The plug-ins are different, so updating in FireFox does not update IE and vice versa.  To read more, visit the links below.