Smart security: network scanners

Wednesday, 6 November 2002, 11:44 AM EST

That's what the latest generation of network vulnerability scanners do -- they probe your network in order to learn its weaknesses. Some scanner makers, though, shy away from calling the process AI, at least partly for marketing reasons. As explained by Dave Cole, director of products at scanner vendor Foundstone in Mission Viejo, CA: "Maybe it's AI at some basic level, but that is not what the customers are focusing on -- they are having enough trouble with standard vulnerabilities."

But whatever the process is called, network vulnerability scanners combine databases of known security problems with complex logic to find security weaknesses before a human hacker does. The software generates a list of problems that it finds, and often includes notes on how to correct them, explained Mike Rasmussen, an analyst at Giga Information Group. Network scanners do not, however, look for vulnerabilities in the configuration of a given host, or in application code -- host scanners and code scanners do that.

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