Online Web Vulnerability Scanners Vs. Locally Installed Web Vulnerability Scanners

 online scanner

All companies that matter take to the Web to give their customers and partners more information about their business and to market their products.  Because of that, Web sites are now an essential part of a business’ or a company’s operating, financial, sales and marketing strategies.  And just as you meticulously secure your network and other IT infrastructures to guard against hacking, cybercrime and other forms of exploitation, you would also need to take steps to secure your Web site.

It used to be that doing so takes a lengthy and time-consuming process.  For new Web sites, you either have to wait for a very long time before you could launch these sites, or go live with some glaring security holes that are open for hackers to exploit out in the open.  For existing sites, it is either you disable some of your pages or take the whole site down, which would mean pissed off customers who will go to your competitor’s Web site to find what they need.

Benefits of a good Web application vulnerability scanner

This is where a Web application vulnerability scanner comes in.  A Web application security scanner simulates attacks from the front end of the Web site so that it could help you uncover weaknesses in the applications that you use as well as the overall architecture of your site.  These are tools that can dramatically decrease the amount of time you would need to find most of the vulnerabilities that exist on your site.  This is not to say that this is all you need, for a more comprehensive look at your site, it is recommended to have somebody check the source code, conduct a manual penetration test, and more importantly, it might make sense to make use of several scanners to be sure.

Nevertheless, a good Web application vulnerability scanner will be able to alert you to most security vulnerabilities that you have and even give you a list of things to correct.

Locally installed Web application vulnerability scanner vs. online and cloud-based web application vulnerability scanner

It is difficult to pinpoint the best Web applications vulnerability scanner for any one company because the criteria change as your needs change.  There are different types of vulnerability scanners that work best with PHP and there are those that are very useful to weed out weaknesses in Java-based applications.  So you should test out different Web vulnerability scanners first.  Try it out to see if it is what you need.  Aside from the programming language, you would need to decide whether you want your Web application vulnerability scanner to be installed locally on your network or use some cloud-based service wherein you can access everything online?

What are the advantages and weaknesses of both?

online virus scanner

The beauty of the cloud.  When you work with online Web application vulnerability scanner on the cloud, you do not have to install software.  This is good news to small businesses that may not have an IT guy to do the installation for them.  What’s more, pretty much everything you need is already configured.  With cloud-based scanners, you are ready to scan your Web site in an instant.  Not so much with a locally installed Web application vulnerability scanner, wherein you need to figure out how to install and configure everything before you could run it.

Another benefit you gain is portability.  With a cloud-based solution, you can check your entire Web site or a single page anywhere, anytime.  You do not have to use an office computer to do so, saving you time.  Furthermore, because a cloud-based scanner is run on your network, or office, you can have more network resources and Internet bandwidth for other stuff you need to do.

Is it customizable?  With all that benefits, why should you even look at locally installed Web application vulnerability scanners?  Remember when we told you before that you need to spend time configuring a locally installed Web vulnerability scanner?  That is where its power lies.  You can configure it in any way you want it to work, helping you make sure that it not only pinpoints vulnerabilities in your Web site but also continually keep your Web site free of errors and security holes.  You can make it perform the way you want or need it to perform.  Cloud-based scanners are typically one-size-fits-all.  These online tools serve the community and your business needs might be different from those of other companies.

Testing.  Web vulnerability software providers usually allow you to scan your Web site using their tools free to help you try out their solutions.  Locally installed Web applications are easier to test out. You can run it on a Web site that you have on a local machine or on your Intranet.  This way, you would know for sure that the software really works and could pinpoint vulnerabilities that you have inserted into your Web site.  With an online solution, you would need to go through the pain of uploading that site and making that live before you could test it.  On top of that, you can even check out your locally installed software to see how it works, what it checks and if it really is catching all the vulnerabilities on your site.  Then you can come up with your own patches, upgrades or ask the vendor to add in the functionality that you need.  Not that easy with online scanners.

Same tools.  The thing that may go wrong with an online Web application vulnerability scanner is that it is readily available to use.  If you can use it, so can hackers.  In fact, if a cloud service helps you to pinpoint vulnerabilities in your Web site for you to correct it, a hacker can use it to find out what particular exploits they can use to get into your Web site.  So having online Web application vulnerability scanners is both a bane and a boon for IT security professionals.

Updated.  When you have a vulnerability scanner that is installed locally, you are more or less working with a vendor who can give you updates and patches on the fly as soon as a new hacking method or vulnerability is discovered.  This is the true value of a locally installed and maintained scanner software.  Critical updates are usually faster and more readily available than Web-based solutions.  Because the Web vulnerability scanner software vendor would not have to consider different businesses and different customers, a patch or an upgrade is released sooner, leaving the decision to implement the patches entirely up to you.

Cover photo courtesy of TahoeSunsets.
Second photo courtesy of trekkyandy.

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