A comprehensive review of the best vulnerability scanning tools

In this article, we explore the features and capabilities of the top five vulnerability scanning tools so that you can consider all the key factors before selecting one.

May 24, 2023

At-scale software development processes are inherently prone to discrepancies and drawbacks. 

While some production hiccups are inevitable, they cannot be left to cause system vulnerabilities that affect product performance and user experience. Vulnerability scanning is, therefore, an integral part of site reliability engineering (SRE) operations that a development team undertakes. The primary goal of this process is to identify all infrastructural, operational, and security-related vulnerabilities within a project and eliminate them before product roll-out. 

Although standard code-testing tools can help with vulnerability scanning, they often fail to detect certain infrastructure and security vulnerabilities. Also, some complex vulnerabilities require techniques like heat mapping to estimate how much usage load a specific part of a system is expected to handle. It takes specialized vulnerability scanning tools to make a difference here. These tools are designed to stimulate real-world user-profiles and assess development projects holistically. 

In this article, we’ll explore what makes a good vulnerability scanning tool and list five examples based on our extensive research. 

What makes a good vulnerability scanning tool?

Apart from ease of use and integration, several other operational characteristics work to make a vulnerability scanning tool efficient. Here are some of the most important factors SRE teams should consider while choosing vulnerability scanning tools. 

  • Accuracy: A good vulnerability scanner must accurately identify and prioritize vulnerabilities based on their severity and impact. Higher accuracy ensures better development efficiency and higher production quality. False positives can waste valuable time and resources, while false negatives can leave critical vulnerabilities undetected.
  • Coverage: The tool should have a broad range of code coverage capable of scanning multiple systems and platforms, including both on-premises and cloud-based systems.
  • Customization: The ability to customize scans, reports, and alerts based on specific requirements and compliance regulations is crucial to meeting the unique needs of different organizations.
  • Continuous monitoring: A good vulnerability scanning tool should offer continuous monitoring capabilities, allowing for regular scans and alerts for new vulnerabilities as they emerge.
  • Reporting: The tool should provide comprehensive and actionable reports that are easy to understand and use, enabling administrators to prioritize and address vulnerabilities effectively.

Vulnerability scanning processes can only be as efficient as the SRE teams overlooking them. While most modern vulnerability scanning tools are highly automated, developers must be trained to use them effectively. That makes it crucial for businesses to conduct efficient onboarding processes every time a new vulnerability scanning tool is introduced to their tech stack. 

Top vulnerability scanning tools

Here are our top five picks of vulnerability scanning tools currently available on the market. 

1. Nessus

Nessus is a widely used vulnerability scanning tool developed by Tenable Network Security. It is known for its fast and efficient scanning capabilities and the ability to detect a wide range of vulnerabilities, including: 

  • Software security vulnerabilities
  • Configuration-related vulnerabilities
  • Web application vulnerabilities that impact page performance on different browsers  

One of Nessus’s biggest strengths is its user-friendliness, which makes it accessible to SRE teams with varying levels of experience. It has a straightforward installation process and an intuitive user interface that makes navigating and customizing scan policies easy. It can also automatically prioritize vulnerabilities based on severity, providing actionable recommendations for remediation.

Another key advantage of Nessus is its ability to scan a wide range of operating systems and devices, including mobile devices, network devices, and virtual environments. This makes it an ideal tool for production-scale environments that require comprehensive vulnerability scanning.

It also offers advanced reporting capabilities, allowing users to generate detailed reports that can be customized to meet specific requirements. The reports include vulnerability severity ratings, remediation recommendations, and compliance information that helps organizations meet regulatory requirements.

Nessus integrates seamlessly with other security tools such as vulnerability management, patch management, and compliance management tools to provide holistic security solutions. It also offers a range of support options, including phone and email support and online resources such as a user forum, documentation, and knowledge base.

The platform offers a variety of pricing options, including a free version with limited functionality and several paid versions with additional features and capabilities. The pricing is based on the number of IP addresses being scanned and the level of support required, making it accessible to organizations of all sizes.

Overall, Nessus is a powerful and reliable vulnerability scanning tool that offers fast, efficient, and comprehensive vulnerability scanning for a wide range of operating systems and devices. Its advanced features, customizable scan policies, and integration capabilities make it the perfect tool for organizations with complex security needs.

2. OpenVAS

Open Vulnerability Assessment System, or OpenVAS, was first released in 2005 as a fork of Nessus. The fork was initiated in response to Nessus’s switch to a proprietary license which made it difficult for many users to continue using the tool. OpenVAS was designed to be an open-source and free alternative to Nessus, providing the same level of comprehensive and customizable vulnerability scanning. 

It is based on a client-server architecture, where the server performs the actual scanning of systems and the client is used to configure and manage scans. The server consists of a set of modules, each responsible for performing a specific type of vulnerability check. The modules are regularly updated to keep up with the latest vulnerabilities and attack techniques.

A key advantage of OpenVAS is its ability to scan multiple operating systems, including Linux, Windows, and macOS. It can also scan many network devices such as routers and switches, making it an ideal tool for organizations with complex network environments.

OpenVAS is a community-supported tool, which means that it has a large and active user community that provides ongoing support and development. Users can access online resources such as documentation, forums, and knowledge bases and receive support from the community.

Finally, OpenVAS is a free tool that is accessible to organizations of all sizes, including small and medium-sized businesses. It does not offer the same level of support and features, however, as commercial vulnerability scanning tools.

3. Qualys 

Qualys is a leading provider of cloud-based security solutions with over 19,000 customers worldwide, including small and large businesses. It has received numerous awards for its products and services, including being named a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for vulnerability assessment and being recognized as a top-rated vulnerability management solution by various industry analysts.

Qualys offers various vulnerability scanning capabilities, including asset discovery, vulnerability assessment, and reporting. It leverages a combination of active and passive scanning techniques to provide comprehensive coverage of network devices, web applications, and cloud environments.

One of the key benefits of Qualys is its scalability. It can support large and complex network environments, making it an ideal solution for large enterprises. It also offers flexible pricing plans based on the number of scanned assets, making it accessible to smaller organizations as well.

Qualys provides continuous monitoring and threat intelligence, enabling it to detect and respond to new vulnerabilities in real time. It also provides actionable recommendations for remediation to help organizations prioritize and address critical vulnerabilities quickly.

Qualys is supported by a large and experienced team of security experts who provide ongoing support and guidance to users. It integrates easily with various third-party security solutions such as SIEMs, firewalls, and endpoint protection solutions.

4. Veracode

Veracode was founded in 2006 by Chris Wysopal, a well-known cybersecurity expert and former member of the L0pht hacker collective. The company was one of the first to focus on cloud-based application security and has since become a leading provider of application security testing solutions. It has also been actively involved in advancing the cybersecurity industry through research and collaboration. For example, Veracode is a founding member of the Building Security In Maturity Model (BSIMM) community, which is focused on developing and sharing best practices for software security.

Veracode's key differentiator is its ability to provide an automated and comprehensive approach to application security. It can scan applications in development, testing, and production environments, providing developers with real-time feedback on potential vulnerabilities and recommended remediation actions. This enables organizations to identify and address potential security issues early on in the development process, reducing the overall risk of a security breach.

Another one of its unique features is the ability to provide developers with a secure coding framework. This includes a set of best practices, guidelines for writing secure code, and training and education resources. The framework helps build a culture of security within organizations and ensures that security is considered at every stage of the software development lifecycle.

5. Checkmarx 

Checkmarx was founded in 2006 by Maty Siman and Jonathan Klinger, two cybersecurity experts with extensive experience in software development and secure coding practices. The company was established to provide developers with tools and resources to help them build secure software from the ground up.

One of Checkmarx’s key strengths is its focus on static code analysis, which involves analyzing code for potential vulnerabilities before it is compiled or deployed. This approach enables developers to address potential security issues early on in the development process when they are typically easier and less expensive to fix.

The platform includes a range of capabilities including interactive code analysis, software composition analysis, and manual penetration testing services. It also provides developers with real-time feedback on potential vulnerabilities, enabling them to address issues early in the development process and reduce the risk of a security breach.

Checkmarx is designed to integrate seamlessly with existing development workflows, making it easy to incorporate into existing processes. The platform supports a wide range of programming languages, including Java, .NET, Python, and C/C++. Another one of its unique features is the ability to provide developers with a detailed analysis of the root cause of a vulnerability, including information on the specific line of code that needs to be addressed. This makes it easier for developers to address issues quickly and effectively without having to spend time searching for the root cause of the problem.

In addition to its platform capabilities, Checkmarx also offers a range of training and education resources to help developers and security professionals build their skills and knowledge in application security. This includes a variety of online courses, webinars, and other resources designed to help users stay up-to-date with the latest trends and best practices in the industry.

Cortex’s vulnerability scanning integrations 

At Cortex, we strive to help development teams achieve efficient workflows. Our security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) platform offers easy integration with several security solutions including Snyk, Mend, Veracode, and Checkmarx.

  • Snyk is a leading provider of open-source security solutions focusing on identifying and addressing vulnerabilities in open-source libraries and dependencies. Our integration with it allows users to conduct Snyk scans based on specific criteria, such as the deployment of a new application or changes to a software configuration. This helps organizations identify and remediate potential vulnerabilities early in development, reducing the risk of a security breach.
  • Mend is a cloud-based vulnerability management solution that gives organizations real-time visibility into potential vulnerabilities across their entire IT infrastructure. Our integration with Mend enables organizations to leverage Mend's scanning capabilities within their broader security workflows, automating vulnerability scans and remediation actions based on specific criteria. 
  • Veracode is a specialized scanning tool for static and dynamic code analysis. Our easy Veracode integration allows organizations to automate the submission of applications for scanning, review scan results, and trigger remediation actions within their security workflows. Cortex users can automatically retrieve the results of Veracode's scans and assign them to the appropriate security teams for analysis and remediation. This integration enables teams to automatically track the progress of remediation activities and close out vulnerabilities within our platform. The integration also helps organizations to improve their DevOps workflows. With Veracode's ability to test code at various stages of the development lifecycle, organizations can identify and address potential vulnerabilities earlier in the process. 
  • Checkmarx is a leading software security solution provider specializing in static application security testing (SAST) and interactive application security testing (IAST). Its integration with Cortex allows users to leverage its traditional SAST and IAST capabilities and identify and manage open-source vulnerabilities in their applications. The integration also enables organizations to automatically retrieve and analyze Checkmarx's reporting data to monitor trends and progress over time. This provides a comprehensive view of the organization's application security posture, enabling teams to prioritize their remediation efforts and focus on the most critical vulnerabilities.

Better vulnerability management with Cortex

At Cortex, we work tirelessly to create cutting-edge developer management systems that can support dynamic, at-scale SDLCs. Our process and vulnerability management solutions allow development teams to automate important parts of the development process, like testing, debugging, and deployment. These solutions empower them to implement better standards that lead to smoother, higher-quality production. 

Our services also offer teams higher visibility into the development process, which allows them to spot and fix discrepancies before they lead to project vulnerabilities. This ensures that every software system you release is as efficient and secure as possible. 

Visit us to learn more about how Cortex can help you streamline your vulnerability management systems

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