Building a Better Assessment Process

Morey Haber, April 13th, 2011

One of the fundamental problems with vulnerability assessment scanning technologies is targeting devices for assessment. Every vendor in the space uses lists of host names, address groups, or computers from an Active Directory OU to build a scan policy and target list. This technique, while incredibly valuable for initial assessment and discovery, wastes precious time accessing devices that may not even be relevant to an assessment based on operating system or even installed applications during future scans. Vulnerability Assessment vendors in general fail to consider the history of a target in performing new scans and allow their technology to become stale based on traditional targeting philosophies.

eEye has developed a different approach to solving this problem. It becomes a must-have feature as we consider the vast size of target ranges that will be coming with the adoption of IPv6 . eEye has introduced the concept of Smart Groups within Retina CS to bring asset targeting into the modern era of vulnerability assessment. Smart Groups are collections of assets that can be built on the basics like address groups, host names, and Active Directory and any discovered trait identified on the target during an initial (or subsequent) assessment. In other words, users can build smart groups based on identified traits such as:

  • Patterns in the Host Name
  • Installed Software
  • Running Processes
  • Services Installed
  • Open Ports
  • The Existence of Specific Files
  • And the list goes on…

These Smart Groups can then be used as Targeting List for any future vulnerability assessment scan. In addition, the groups are dynamic and will add and subtract devices automatically based on the last traits collected from the target, so that groups that manage like functions are always up to date.

Let us review a smart group that uses this advanced targeting technique. In this example, a smart group has been built from hosts with Microsoft Office installed. A new audit group has also been created with only MS Office vulnerabilities.

Based on the new target list and filtered audits, a rapid scan can be conducted throughout a large enterprise in a fraction of the time of a traditional scan to look for hosts missing the targeted vulnerabilities. This advanced targeting technique does not waste time on errant devices in the range nor systems that do not have MS Office installed.

In order to manage rogue devices and new hosts on the network with this process, the solution can be setup to perform inventory scans (no vulnerability assessment, just the collection of traits that are used to build smart groups) on a regular basis to ensure targeted assessment is fast and efficient. In addition, systems that are unassigned can be automatically included or excluded to ensure no system is missed. Consider how important this technique could be for assessing devices that have web servers running on them. You could create a simple Smart Group based on devices with open HTTP / HTTPS ports and an instance of a new Smart Group for advanced targeting and vulnerability assessment.

Retina CS is pioneering the way vulnerability assessment should be performed in the future. Advanced targeting is just one technique. Request more information on Retina CS.