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Why Agent-Based Scanner is Superior to Agentless Scanner for Vulnerability Management

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Need For a Scanner

Vulnerabilities in an endpoint or server should not remain obscure. The reason – their trends are alarming and remarkably broad. Besides, these flaws are hard to contain and can result in a baleful impact when exploited by attackers. Take WannaCry or Log4j attacks, for example. WannaCry exploited a vulnerability in the MS Windows implementation of the SMB protocol, whereas the Log4j vulnerability gave the attacker the control to trick applications into executing malicious code. When Wannacry asked for extortion money, Petya focused on the destruction of the master boot record. It’s time to stem down these pernicious vulnerabilities.

Expansion of the attack surface leaves more organizations vulnerable to attacks, making it a foremost security trend.

The best way to reduce them is by finding where they exist. This is possible through a vulnerability scanner. It can monitor networks, endpoints, servers, and applications to detect security vulnerabilities. Concurrently, the scanner gives you the vantage point from which you get complete clarity on the hardware assets, the application, and system vulnerabilities, such as open ports, user accounts, misconfigurations, compliance deviations, unsigned applications, inactive users, outdated patches, etc.

It analyzes endpoint systems and servers to identify any vulnerabilities that attackers could exploit by assessing their strengths and weaknesses. The scanner also detects vulnerabilities of varying severities and explicitly reveals their dwell time and the space they are located. Automated, highly advanced scanners operate 24×7 and do not require a lot of bandwidth.

Scan and patch software and operating systems continuously to keep ransomware attacks away.

Two Types of Scanners

A scanner is inevitable, not optional, anymore. There are two types of scanners based on the sorts of value they offer. Agent-based scanner and agentless scanner. Both adopt different tactics. The agent-based scanner is a small, lightweight utility installed in a system. The agent can run the system continuously to scan it for vulnerabilities and generate reports. Users do not need to install and run agentless scanners within the target system.


Agent-based Scanner

The agent-based scanner can scan nicely unperturbed all the way with the signature cadence of a dedicated soldier. Moreover, it is highly efficient and provides studious accuracy and trouble-free usability due to its low RAM usage. It ensures a seamless scanning experience as it reduces the impact on network traffic.

Sophisticated scanners can scan & remediate every endpoint and server in just 5 minutes. They operate at a ridiculously different speed.

They hold great promise due to their advantages and give genuine breakthroughs in quickly detecting vulnerabilities, even if the system is not connected to the network. Since they are installed in the system, they don’t suck up the network traffic. It doesn’t give you reasons to fret, as it can function without the need for assets or network credentials and does not impact the system’s processing power.

Even hardened systems and systems having temporary IP addresses can be scanned for deep level vulnerabilities along with their details, such as severity levels. Be it AWS, Google, or Azure, agent-based scanners can be installed into these images to keep them secure by scanning virtual assets. They also can obtain an accurate inventory of assets and enable you to track the vulnerabilities in each asset and their trends, along with real-time actionable data.

Agents can be deployed on every system at speed to scan & remediate vulnerabilities to disrupt attacks and stop them “on the edge” —that is, at the entry point.

Agents can also clip the attacker’s wings by limiting the scan of credentials such as domain admin access. If such access is allowed, attackers using rogue devices in the network can break up the password ciphertext and relay the string of bits to other systems. Agents are the best bet for scanning endpoints used by remote employees. Even if they use their devices to connect to the network, the agents can provide their vulnerability status to ensure they are patched in time. 

Agents installed in various endpoints and servers collate vulnerability data, send them back to servers, and consolidate them in a single console to unlock the criticality of security posture and provide previously hidden insights.

Agents are not just scanners that can find vulnerabilities. Rather, they are value multipliers that enable you to figure out how to improve every aspect of endpoint security. It can be seen conversely.

Use Cases of Agent-Based Scanners

  • Adaptable to complex networks: Agents are flexible, secure, and scalable. They use very little network overheads as they are light in weight. They are also designed to quickly adapt to environments having many devices with different configurations and operating systems and are customizable to collate data and do tasks in specific environments.
  • Reduce traffic congestion: Installing agents in an endpoint can reduce congestion in networks handling large amounts of traffic. Therefore, they don’t send requests or data across the network, sustaining the performance of the network.
  • Improved network security posture: Since they don’t open ports or communication channels with the server, this reduces the vulnerabilities and security risks.
  • Granularity in data collection: Agents excel in aggregating specific data about every endpoint and server, touching every vulnerability pore to show their micro-level trends through network view.
  • Continuous monitoring: Due to its real-time monitoring feature, agents regularly monitor the device and application states. This is critical to rapidly detect issues, anomalies, or threats in a complex distributed IT environment.
  • Efficiency through scalability: Agents can easily handle networks with millions of devices. Multiple agents can distribute the workload to scan and monitor endpoints efficiently, even as the network grows.
  • Securing critical infrastructure: Due to their real-time continuous monitoring abilities, agents are best suited for securing critical infrastructure, as they can quickly find anomalies. This can be in power grids, water treatment plants, or transportation networks.
  • Air-gapped environments: Endpoint environments isolated from external networks can use agents. Agents can collate and store data locally to provide visibility even under restricted network connectivity.  
  • Mission critical environments: Be it large data centers with many servers and infrastructure components, defense establishments, or data-sensitive domains such as banks or financial institutions, an agent-based scanner can monitor system performance, resource utilization, and security to prevent downtime, protect critical assets and customer data, and identify unauthorized devices or compliance violations.
  • Compliance and Audits: Agents can sustain compliance and regulatory requirements due to their ability to assess system and network configurations continually. This is of vital help for organizations that have a mandate to demonstrate adherence to regulations. 

Advent of the Next-Gen Agent-based Scanner

Advanced vulnerability management platforms offer next-gen agent-based scanners and are representative of the big leap in the realm of security. They offer cutting-edge scanning abilities, enabling unparalleled visibility and control over large network environments.

Agent-based scanners are an integral part of advanced vulnerability management platforms, which offer a risk-based view of the attack surface and help to quickly detect, prioritize, and remediate critical vulnerabilities. They are highly adaptive, seamlessly integrating with devices and operating systems such as Windows, Linux, and MacOS.

Advanced vulnerability management scanners can proactively ensure fast, accurate coverage, including 24×7 surveillance.

Capability Snapshot of Next-Gen Agent-Based Scanner

  • Continuous enterprise posture anomaly management
    Continuously monitor and assess vulnerabilities, providing real-time visibility into the security posture of individual software and hardware assets
  • Authenticated scanning
    Assess vulnerabilities with the necessary privileges to access the system configuration and software so that it finds misconfigurations and provide deeper insights
  • Uses the latest vulnerability database
    Leverages updated security intelligence to continuously stay updated on CVSS scores, exploitability, and remediation steps.
  • Custom scanning
    Customize scan policies to meet specific security needs or compliance requirements.
  • Proactive monitoring
    Identifies vulnerabilities as they emerge or change by enabling real-time detection.
  • Rapid asset discovery
    Maintains an updated inventory of assets by tracking them regularly to improve accuracy.
  • Seamless integration with remediation workflows
    These scanners are easily integrable with remediation workflows. When a vulnerability is detected, the task is automatically assigned and integrated into remediation workflow, leading to a faster response time.
  •  Reduced false positives
    Agent-based scanners advanced algorithms reduce false positives to streamline the risk prioritization process.

Agentless Scanners

Though simpler to implement and maintain, agentless scanners offer limited features such as no real-time monitoring, fewer vulnerability details, network protocol dependencies, and restricted automation ability. It uses non-invasive network protocols to gather data. It evaluates the snapshots of resources taken and processes them to verify security risks.

Agentless scanners also need an open communication port on endpoints, which is very risky as attackers can exploit open ports. Agents avoid the need for such ports. They can collect data and send it to the servers in a secure manner.

Agentless scanners cannot collate data from offline devices and can consume significant resources in target systems. The scans are periodic, event-based, and not continuous, exposing assets to serious risks. Undeniably, they are a good choice for simple network topologies with stable configurations and connectivity. These scanners are good for scanning routers, switches, and firewalls, including network discovery where real-time status updates are not mandatory.

Why Agent-Based Scanners Have an Edge

Despite both scanners contributing to vulnerability management, there is a clear distinction between them in terms of performance and benefits. As highlighted, agent-based scanners are notably superior to agentless scanners in addressing vulnerabilities in endpoints and servers.

Advanced agent-based scanners will amaze you with their speed, scale, and flexibility in removing the clutter of vulnerabilities.

In a severe contest between the two, agent-based scanners will press forward to push aside the timidity of the other and emerge as a striking successor. Agent-based scanner is a winner, no doubt. Also, ensure the scanner is an integral part of an advanced vulnerability management solution that can detect, prioritize, and remediate vulnerabilities.

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