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A vulnerability assessment is a process that evaluates the security of a computer system or network and looks for weaknesses that could be exploited. It’s an important part of managing risk and protecting information assets.

The main purpose of a vulnerability assessment is to identify, quantify, and prioritize vulnerabilities or security gaps in a system. This allows organizations to determine where their systems are exposed and design mitigating controls to reduce risk. It provides an overall picture of the current security posture of the IT environment.

Conducting regular vulnerability assessments is crucial for any organization. It enables them to:

  • Discover weaknesses in systems that could be exploited by attackers to gain unauthorized access.
  • Assess the effectiveness of existing security controls and determine where improvements need to be made.
  • Demonstrate due diligence and meet compliance requirements for security policies, regulations, and standards.
  • Develop a risk management strategy and priorities for remediation based on the severity of vulnerabilities.
  • Validate that vulnerabilities have been remediated after fixes or patches are applied.

Vulnerability assessments provide vital information that allows organizations to make informed decisions about securing critical assets and data. The findings help security professionals introduce controls and processes to monitor systems for new vulnerabilities that emerge over time. Overall, it strengthens the organization’s security posture and ability to prevent, detect, and respond to cyber threats.

Executive Summary

The executive summary provides a high-level overview of the key findings and recommendations from the vulnerability assessment. It summarizes the scope, methodology, and overall results, without getting into technical details.

The assessment identified several critical and high severity vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers to gain unauthorized access, escalate privileges, or deny services. While no evidence of exploitation was found, these vulnerabilities pose significant risks that should be remediated urgently.

Overall, the assessment found numerous areas where security controls could be improved to reduce risk and strengthen the organization’s security posture. Upgrading outdated software versions, enforcing principle of least privilege, and implementing missing security patches are some of the key recommendations.

Further details on vulnerability assessment findings, risk ratings, and remediation guidance can be found in the main sections of the report. Addressing the vulnerabilities and control gaps identified will reduce the organization’s exposure to cyber threats and lower the likelihood of a successful breach.


The scope of this vulnerability assessment focused on the systems and networks within the organization’s main office and data center locations. Specifically, the following assets were included:

  • Primary office network (
  • Data center network (
  • Email server (exchange.company.com)
  • File server (files.company.com)
  • Intranet server (intranet.company.com)
  • External website (www.company.com)

The assessment was conducted between January 1st and January 15th, 2023 and included both internal and external testing of these systems and networks. The goal was to identify vulnerabilities that could be leveraged by attackers to gain unauthorized access or disrupt services.

Specific systems and assets that were excluded from the assessment due to operational limitations included:

  • Legacy financial system (
  • VoIP phone system
  • Remote office networks

This time period and scope provided sufficient opportunity to thoroughly evaluate the organization’s security posture within the most critical segments of the IT infrastructure. Expanding the assessment to encompass a wider range of systems and networks will be considered for future assessments.


A vulnerability assessment methodology involves using various tools and techniques to identify security weaknesses in an organization’s networks, systems, and applications. The assessment team generally follows a defined process to methodically test, analyze, and report on vulnerabilities.

Some key aspects of a vulnerability assessment methodology include:

Tools Used

  • Network scanners – Detect open ports, identify services, and find known vulnerabilities. Popular examples include Nessus, OpenVAS, Nmap.
  • Vulnerability scanners – Scan applications, APIs, and web interfaces for flaws. Acunetix, Burp Suite, and Netsparker are common choices.
  • Configuration auditing tools – Check system configurations against best practice baselines. Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer (MBSA) is one such tool.
  • Password crackers – Test password strength and attempt to crack passwords. John the Ripper and Hashcat are widely used.
  • Custom scripts and tools – May be developed in-house to test for specific vulnerabilities.

Techniques Used

  • Service enumeration – Discovering operating systems, versions, and application details running on networks.
  • Credentialed vs non-credentialed testing – Credentialed testing is done as an authorized user for greater access to assets.
  • Configuration review – Verifying security settings follow industry standards and best practices.
  • Authentication testing – Checking for default, weak, or easy-to-guess passwords.
  • Input fuzzing – Testing inputs by submitting malformed data to find vulnerabilities.
  • Logic testing – Checking workflow and business logic for exposure of sensitive assets.

Processes Followed

  • Information gathering – Discover networks, IPs, domains, applications, and other assets in scope.
  • Vulnerability scanning – Use scanners and tools to detect security flaws.
  • Manual verification – Manually confirm a sample of found vulnerabilities.
  • Analysis – Categorize findings, investigate root causes, estimate risk and exploitability.
  • Reporting – Document all findings, analysis, remediations in a clearly structured report.
  • Retesting – Validate remediations implemented by the client post-assessment.

Host Discovery

During a vulnerability assessment, the first step is to discover all the hosts and devices on the target network. This involves using various techniques to identify active hosts that respond to network traffic and mapping out the overall topology of the network.

Some of the key techniques used in host discovery include:

  • Ping sweeps – Sending ICMP ping requests to a range of IP addresses to see which respond. This identifies live hosts.
  • Port scanning – Scanning for open and closed ports on discovered hosts. This helps determine which services are running and identify operating systems.
  • Network mapping – Drawing out the overall network topology and documenting how all the discovered hosts connect together. This maps out subnets, routers, firewalls etc.
  • Service detection – Detecting which services like HTTP, SSH, FTP etc are running on each host. This provides insights into host purpose and function.
  • OS fingerprinting – Passively determining host operating systems by analyzing how they respond to certain network probes.
  • DNS lookups – Doing reverse DNS lookups to resolve IP addresses to hostnames. This provides additional context and visibility.
  • Traffic capturing – Capturing network traffic to detect new hosts that may be missed by active scanning.

The host discovery phase aims to provide a comprehensive inventory of all accessible systems on the network. This inventory becomes the target list to run more intrusive vulnerability scans against during the next phases of the assessment.

Vulnerability Detection

The vulnerability detection phase involved using multiple tools and techniques to identify vulnerabilities on each in-scope host. Key findings included:

  • Host 1 (IP address)
    • Apache HTTP Server 2.4.6: CVE-2014-0231 – moderate severity
    • OpenSSL 1.0.2: CVE-2016-2107 – high severity
  • Host 2 (IP address)
    • MySQL 5.7: CVE-2015-3152 – critical severity
    • PHP 7.2: CVE-2016-5771 – low severity
  • Host 3 (IP address)
    • Windows Server 2012: CVE-2019-0686 – high severity
    • Adobe Acrobat Reader DC: CVE-2018-4990 – critical severity

The vulnerability detection phase uncovered several critical and high severity vulnerabilities that need to be addressed to reduce risk. OpenSSL, MySQL, and Adobe Acrobat Reader were found to have publicly known exploits that could allow remote code execution and data theft if left unpatched. Recommendations for remediating these vulnerabilities are provided in the Remediations section.

Vulnerability Analysis

A key component of a vulnerability assessment report is analyzing the vulnerabilities detected during scanning, providing details on the risks they pose. This analysis focuses on aspects like available exploits, potential impacts if exploited, and severity ratings per Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) identifiers.

When analyzing vulnerabilities, the report will note known public exploits that could allow attackers to leverage the vulnerability. The presence of exploit code greatly increases ease of exploitation and therefore the risk level. For example, a remote code execution vulnerability may have several exploits available that require little skill to utilize.

The analysis also examines potential impacts if the vulnerability is successfully exploited. These impacts could include arbitrary code execution, escalation of privileges, denial of service, information disclosure, and more. Higher impact vulnerabilities that allow code execution or privilege escalation are considered more severe.

Additionally, the report will list severity scores for vulnerabilities according to their CVE identifier. The CVE dictionary provides rankings such as Critical and High for vulnerabilities based on multiple factors like ease of exploit and potential impact. Referencing the CVE severity helps provide standardized assessment of risk levels.

Overall, strong vulnerability analysis provides actionable details on exploit availability, impacts, and severity classifications for the vulnerabilities detected during the assessment. This enables stakeholders to better understand the tangible risks introduced and prioritize remediation based on business impact.

Risk Ratings

Vulnerability assessment reports generally include risk ratings for each identified vulnerability. These ratings help organizations prioritize which vulnerabilities should be remediated first based on the level of risk posed.

Risk ratings take into account factors like:

  • How easy is it to exploit this vulnerability? Vulnerabilities that are easier to exploit are higher risk.
  • What kind of access does an attacker need to exploit this? Remote access vulnerabilities are higher risk than local access vulnerabilities.
  • What’s the potential impact if exploited? High severity vulnerabilities that allow code execution, escalation of privileges, or information disclosure are higher risk.
  • How prevalent is this vulnerability? Common vulnerabilities that are widely known carry more risk.
  • What assets are exposed? Vulnerabilities in mission critical systems or sensitive data repositories have higher risk.

The most common risk rating method is the CVSS (Common Vulnerability Scoring System) score, which assigns a numeric score from 0-10 based on these factors. Most vulnerability asessment reports will include the CVSS score.

Reports may also assign qualitative ratings like Critical, High, Medium, Low based on threshold CVSS scores. Critical vulnerabilities are the highest priority to remediate.

Providing risk ratings allows an organization to make data-driven decisions about which vulnerabilities should be fixed first based on potential likelihood and impact of exploitation. It helps focus security efforts on the vulnerabilities that pose the greatest overall risk.


Vulnerability assessment reports typically contain recommended remediations that can help mitigate the risks identified in the report. Remediations focus on specific fixes or patches that can be implemented to address vulnerabilities or misconfigurations.

Some key things to cover in the remediations section:

  • Provide actionable remediation advice based on the vulnerabilities detected. Don’t just list the vulnerability, but provide specific steps on how to remediate it.
  • Focus on patching and configuration changes that can fix or reduce the risk of exploitation. This may include things like:
    • Updating applications and systems to the latest vendor-recommended patches
    • Changing insecure default configurations and settings
    • Enforcing tighter access controls and permissions
    • Disabling unnecessary services and protocols
    • Implementing additional logging or monitoring
  • Prioritize the most critical and high risk vulnerabilities for remediation first. Provide risk ratings or severity scores to indicate the priority level.
  • Group remediations by system, software/application, network, or other logical grouping as relevant. Don’t just provide one long undifferentiated list.
  • Provide remediation steps tailored to the organization’s specific environment. Don’t just copy/paste generic public remediation advice.
  • Offer configuration examples or scripts/snippets to help with remediation where applicable.
  • Include alternative remediations or workarounds if certain patches or upgrades are not feasible.
  • Explain any nuances, caveats, or potential impacts of the remediation (e.g. service restarts required).
  • Set realistic timeframes or milestones for applying critical remediations based on severity.
  • Provide guidance on re-testing after remediations to validate they are working as intended.

An effective remediation section armors the organization with specific fixes to improve their security posture against confirmed vulnerabilities. Prioritizing and customizing the remediations provides actionable advice to mitigate the most pressing risks first.

Appendix: Raw Scan Results and Additional Data

The appendix contains the raw output and additional data from the tools used during the vulnerability assessment. This includes:

  • Full Nmap scan results showing open ports, services, and OS detection on each host
  • Nessus scan reports with complete vulnerability listings and plugin output
  • Qualys scan reports with full vulnerability details and risk scores
  • Burp Suite findings from web app scanning, including requests, responses, and issue analysis
  • Nikto web server scan results showing found vulnerabilities
  • Full output from any additional scanning tools used during the assessment
  • Any exploit proof of concept code or payloads used for penetration testing
  • Screenshots validating exploited vulnerabilities
  • Packet captures (pcaps) from network scanning and penetration testing
  • Additional logs, notes, or data related to the assessment

The raw results provide transparency into the full scope of testing performed during the vulnerability assessment. This data can be used to reproduce the findings and validate remediation efforts after security issues have been addressed. The appendix provides auxiliary information to complement the analysis and high-level findings outlined in the main report.

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