What are web scanners and why you need them for better online security


Optimise your web scanner using the listed tips and protect not only your web application but your organisation’s assets, reputation and finances as well.

We have all heard the old adage that prevention is better than cure. It could not be truer when it comes to web application security and cybersecurity in general. It is much more efficient and effective to prevent cyber attacks than to engage in post-incident response. Web scanners play a crucial role in effective prevention and mitigation of attacks on web applications. They help identify potential threats and vulnerabilities, malware, suspicious activities, and application defacements. Here are some important tips that will aid you in optimising your web scanner.

Clarity on the scope and purpose of the web scanner

Every organisation has different structures and systems and a varied set of needs. So the web scanner will not be fulfilling the same purpose in every organisation. For instance, X may need a web scanner for compliance purposes and Y may need a web scanner for routine scans in the software development process while Z may need it for a post-incident response. So for the full optimisation, stability and efficiency of the web scanner, it is crucial for every organisation clearly defines the scope and purpose of the web scanner.

Choice of web scanner

Organisations must analyse the network structure and understand the specific business and IT needs of the organisation to choose a web scanner that is best-suited and well-aligned to the needs of the organisation. A web scanner that is up to date on the global threats and vulnerabilities will ensure effective scanning. Cloud-based and automated web scanners save time and cost while making sure that the network is not slowed down owing to the scanning.

Web application coverage

Unlike manual testing and penetration testing, web scanners (especially automated ones) can scan for an extensive list of vulnerabilities and threats. To optimise such a web scanner, make a list of your expectations from the web scanner and all kinds of potential threats and vulnerabilities you want the scanner to identify. To this end, you can make use of available global threat databases or use web application security tools like AppTrana, which are endowed with continuous updates on information of global threats and augmented with past attack history (data and learnings from the attacks).

Reduce obstructions to the web scanner

To optimise the web scanner, it is important to place it close to the assets to be scanned, without too many obstructions in the forms of firewalls or devices. Usage of low-bandwidth WAN connections also obstructs the optimum use of the web scanner.

Leverage automation

For effective scanning and identification of potential threats and vulnerabilities, web application scanning must be done daily and after major changes to the systems, networks, business policies, etc. By leveraging automation, the web scanner can be fully optimised as the scanning process can be scheduled in advance and it will run in the background. It will ensure that the web applications are not endangered due to human carelessness or lethargy. Some of these automated web scanners even automatically remove, patch or block vulnerabilities and threats.

Assembling a usable and readable report

When the web scanner has the ability to generate usable and readable reports, it can be effectively used by developers and security professionals to develop and roll out corrective actions.

Professional help

The web scanner is fully optimised when the services of certified security professionals are used. While automated scanners identify top threats, anomalous and malicious activity and other attack signals, these professionals can analyse reports generated by the scanner to effectively fix vulnerabilities or engage in further manual/pen testing as well as analyse the impact of business functions on web applications to identify and fix business logic flaws.

Avoid haste and inconsistency

Web scanners that are configured in haste and that are inconsistent are major reasons for poor cybersecurity and greater exposure to threats. It is crucial for organisations to expend time, effort and resources towards careful and data-driven cybersecurity strategy, awareness creation among its various stakeholders and proper configuration of processes and technologies.

Integration with other web security and development tools

Using only web scanners will not be effective in allaying threats to the web applications and assets. The web scanner can be optimised when it is effectively integrating with other web security and development tools. For instance, a web scanner that works seamlessly with a Web Application Firewall (WAF) will ensure that there is constant mutual learning between the two which will translate into a better web application security as well as optimisation of both tools.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)



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