What is authenticated vulnerability scanning?

Neda Ali
Reviewed by
Abey Koshy Itty
Published on
19 Dec 2023
7 min read

As data breaches increase in frequency, organizations take proactive steps to defend their systems, which entails locating and resolving vulnerabilities before attackers have a chance to take advantage of them.

Regular vulnerability scanning enables businesses to identify potential flaws in their network architecture and take action to reduce the risks associated with those shortcomings.

This not only helps to protect intellectual property and personal information, but it also helps to build trust with clients and business partners who hope that their data will be handled safely.

What is vulnerability scanning?

Vulnerability scanning refers to the process of assessing computer systems, networks, or applications to identify potential security vulnerabilities.

It involves the use of automated tools and techniques to scan and analyze the target system for known weaknesses or misconfigurations that could be exploited by attackers.

The goal of vulnerability scanning is to proactively identify and address security flaws before they can be exploited, thereby reducing the risk of unauthorized access, data breaches, or other security incidents.

What is authenticated vulnerability scanning?

Authenticated vulnerability scanning, sometimes referred to as credentialed scanning, is a type of vulnerability assessment that involves conducting scans while providing valid credentials or login credentials to the scanning tool.

Unlike unauthenticated scanning, which relies solely on external tests, authenticated scanning allows for a more comprehensive and accurate analysis of the target system’s security posture. For a thorough understanding of the difference between the two, you can refer to our blog on authenticated vs unauthenticated scans.

In authenticated vulnerability scanning, the scanning tool is granted privileged access to the internal components, files, and configurations of the system being assessed.

This enables the tool to gather more detailed information about the system’s vulnerabilities, such as missing patches, misconfigurations, weak passwords, and other internal weaknesses that may not be visible externally.

By authenticating and gaining access to the system, the scanning tool can simulate an authorized user’s perspective, providing a more thorough assessment of the vulnerabilities that an attacker with legitimate access might exploit.

Importance of authenticated vulnerability scanning

1. Enhanced accuracy

Authenticated scanning offers a higher level of accuracy compared to unauthenticated scanning. By accessing the internal components, the tool can identify vulnerabilities that may be specific to the system’s configuration and settings.

2. Comprehensive assessment

Authenticated scanning provides a more thorough evaluation of the system’s security by assessing both external and internal vulnerabilities. It helps identify misconfigurations, default settings, or weak security practices that may not be visible from the outside.

3. Privilege escalation testing

With authenticated access, the scanning tool can assess the potential for privilege escalation vulnerabilities.

It can identify if an attacker could exploit weaknesses to gain unauthorized access or escalate privileges within the system.

4. Compliance requirements

Authenticated scanning is often required to meet compliance standards and regulatory obligations. It helps organizations demonstrate due diligence in assessing the security of their systems and meeting specific industry requirements.

5. Reduced false positives

Authenticated scanning helps reduce false positives by validating the existence of vulnerabilities.

By having access to internal information, the tool can accurately identify vulnerabilities and avoid flagging false positives that may occur in unauthenticated scans.

6. Configuration validation

Authenticated scans allow for the evaluation of security configurations against industry best practices and standards.

It helps identify deviations from recommended settings and provides insights into potential areas for improvement.

What are the challenges of authenticated vulnerability scanning?

While authenticated vulnerability scanning offers several benefits, it also presents some challenges that organizations need to be aware of. Here are some of the common challenges associated with authenticated vulnerability scanning.

1. Credential management

Authenticated scanning requires the management and protection of valid credentials, including usernames and passwords.

Safeguarding these credentials is crucial to prevent unauthorized access and potential misuse. Organizations need to implement strong credentialed management practices, such as secure storage, encryption, and access controls.

2. System compatibility

Authenticated scanning may face challenges when dealing with diverse systems, platforms, and versions.

Different systems may have varying requirements for authentication methods or may not support certain scanning tools. Ensuring compatibility across different systems can be complex and may require additional configuration or customization.

3. Access limitations

In some cases, access limitations imposed by the system or network infrastructure can hinder the effectiveness of authenticated scanning.

Firewalls, network segmentation, and other security measures may restrict the scanning tool’s access to certain components or prevent the scanning tool from reaching critical areas of the system.

4. Resource intensiveness

Authenticated scanning can be resource-intensive, as it requires the scanning tool to interact with the system and gather detailed information about its configuration and settings.

This process may consume significant network bandwidth, system resources, and time, especially when scanning large and complex systems.

5. Impact on production systems

Depending on the scanning tool’s configuration and the sensitivity of the target system, authenticated scanning may impact the performance or availability of production systems.

Scanning activities could potentially trigger alarms, generate false positives, or cause unintended consequences if not carefully planned and executed.

6. Limited coverage

Authenticated scanning may not cover all aspects of the target system’s security.

While it provides valuable insights into internal vulnerabilities and configuration issues, it may not identify certain external vulnerabilities or weaknesses that can only be detected through unauthenticated scans or other specialized assessments.

In conclusion, while vulnerability scanning is a valuable tool, recognizing the limitations of vulnerability scanners prompts a strategic, multi-layered approach to fortify cybersecurity defenses.

How can Beagle Security help you?

Beagle Security is an automated AI penetration testing tool for uncovering security weaknesses in web applications & APIs.

With a focus on modern DAST methodology, Beagle Security’s test engine uses AI to emulate real hacker actions to understand the depth of potential compromises and offer comprehensive coverage.

The authenticated testing module on Beagle Security can handle basic form-based login with credentials as well as the most sophisticated authentication methods like 2 factor authentication and third-party authentication with login providers like Google, Facebook etc.

In case of complex login flows, you can make use of the Beagle Security login recorder to capture the login sequence. The recordings are then replayed during a test to cover the pages behind the login screen.

Beagle Security provides detailed and contextual reports that use LLM to generate developer friendly recommendations based on an application’s tech stack; thus, empowering businesses to make informed decisions for enhancing their security posture.

Ready to step up your authenticated penetration testing with a DAST solution with the fastest go-live time and best est. ROI? Get started with Beagle Security’s product tour or book a demo today!

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Written by
Neda Ali
Neda Ali
Product Marketing Specialist
Abey Koshy Itty
Abey Koshy Itty
Marketing Manager
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