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What is a Vulnerability?
Mistakes happen, even in the process of building and coding technology. What’s left behind from these mistakes is commonly referred to as a bug. While bugs aren’t inherently harmful (except to the potential performance of the technology), many can be taken advantage of by nefarious actors—these are known as vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities can be leveraged to force software to act in ways it’s not intended to, such as gleaning information about the current security defenses in place.
Once a bug is determined to be a vulnerability, it is registered by MITRE as a CVE, or common vulnerability or exposure, and assigned a Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) score to reflect the potential risk it could introduce to your organization. This central listing of CVEs serves as a reference point for vulnerability scanners.
Generally speaking, a vulnerability scanner will scan and compare your environment against a vulnerability database, or a list of known vulnerabilities; the more information the scanner has, the more accurate its performance. Once a team has a report of the vulnerabilities, developers can use penetration testing as a means to see where the weaknesses are, so the problem can be fixed and future mistakes can be avoided. When employing frequent and consistent scanning, you'll start to see common threads between the vulnerabilities for a better understanding of the full system.