False Positive Vulnerabilities & How to Avoid Them

Blog Reading Time 7 Min Read
April 11, 2023
By: Senesh Wijayarathne

False Positive Vulnerabilities & How to Avoid Them

False Positive Vulnerabilities: What They Are, Why They Matter, and How to Prevent Them…  

False Positive Vulnerabilities seem like an innocuous mistake made by the vulnerability scanner, but the adversities the False Positive vulnerabilities present will significantly impact the organization

It is, therefore, of paramount importance that an organization identifies its vulnerabilities accurately so as to be securely ahead of the prevailing cyberthreats.

What is a False Positive Vulnerability? 

When a file or a setting has been flagged or alerted as malicious or vulnerable when it is not, it is known as a False Positive Vulnerability. Vulnerability Scanners will detect False Positive Vulnerabilities since the scanners can only access a limited amount of required information, preventing them from accurately determining whether a vulnerability actually prevails.  

Statistically, False Positives are known as ‘Type I’ errors for the reason that they scan the website for a specific condition and wrongly give an affirmative (positive) decision. False Negatives are known as ‘Type II’ errors and are the opposite of False Positives. False negatives scan the website for a specific condition and incorrectly give a negative decision when there is an actual vulnerability. False negatives have a direct impact on the security of the organization for the reason that vulnerabilities that are undetected cannot be resolved. False Positives and False Negatives are the two main types of errors associated with vulnerability scanners. This blog article focuses on False Positives in cybersecurity.

Why Do We Get False Positive Vulnerabilities

A False Positive vulnerability might be detected when the vulnerability scanners can only read the configuration information. For example, a vulnerability scanner that reads an Apache banner can only detect one version (version 2.3.46) that was installed from the HTTP banner, even if the latter version (version 2.3.46-29) is also installed and has a software fix that was backported. Another example would be the detection of the version of Secure Shell (SSH) that is installed when the vulnerability scanner reads the banner. However, the scanner would not detect the operating system or the patch level. If the vulnerability scanner could not determine the operating system while detecting that Secure Shell version 2 (SSH-2) is installed, accurately determining whether a vulnerability exists or not would be difficult for the vulnerability scanner.

False Positives; Investigate? or Ignore? 

Vulnerability scanners will scan entire websites and the domains that are specifically mentioned and produce a summary report regarding the vulnerabilities detected and methods of mitigating them. These detected vulnerabilities contain False Positive ones as well. The False Positives are a distraction from the actual vulnerabilities, resulting in wasted time, money, and resources. 

With False Positive vulnerability numbers increasing, companies tend to ignore alarms swifter than they would take time to consider them. For example, if 200 Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities were detected by a vulnerability scanner and the first 20 variants were found to be False Positives by the security engineer or penetration tester, the possibility of assuming all detected XSS reports as False Positives and ignoring them is very high. This will create a significant security risk for the organization and for the clients of the organization since a real vulnerability could slip through without proper mitigations leaving the door open for malicious attackers. The organization could either assume and ignore all relevant vulnerabilities thinking all of them are False Positives, or the organization could go through all vulnerabilities, one by one, and clarify the real vulnerabilities and False Positive vulnerabilities. Both options mentioned above will have the same dilemmas, and they would either:

  • All or a considerable amount of vulnerabilities be Real Vulnerabilities
  • All or a considerable amount of vulnerabilities be False Vulnerabilities

Such scenarios put the organization in a challenging position, whether to employ time, resources, and money for going through all the vulnerabilities that are listed, since there might be a chance of discovering real vulnerabilities, or whether to assume and ignore all vulnerabilities are likely to be False Positives after considering the results of the first few scans; while exposing the organization for real vulnerabilities that might be on the ignored list.

What should you do to Reduce False Positives? 

The solution is to use a Vulnerability Scanning Service with a high accuracy rate. When choosing a Vulnerability Scanning Service, an organization should evaluate a number of vital factors, such as:

  • How accurate the vulnerability scanner is;
  • How many vulnerabilities can the scanner identify; 
  • How the vulnerability scanner would help mitigating the identified vulnerabilities;
  • How easy would it be to conduct/schedule a  vulnerability scan;
  • How easy is it to add or remove targets/URLs;
  • How much does it cost to conduct a vulnerability scan?

Why eBuilder Security’s Vulnerability Scanning Service?  

Detection of False Positives happens on ALMOST all vulnerability scanners, but the vulnerability scanning service provided by eBuilder Security stands out tall with a near 0% false positive rate, and with the capability to detect over 7000+ vulnerabilities including The OWASP Top 10. We have a 100% detection accuracy and 0% False Positives for Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) and SQL Injection (SQLi) Vulnerabilities with a leading Web Input Vector Extractor Teaser (WIVET) assessment score. 

Here at eBuilder Security, we provide Vulnerability Scanning as a Service partnering with Acunetix by Invicti, one of the best, if not the best vulnerability scanner around in these times. Our vulnerability scanning service can be obtained with a pay as you go plan providing you more flexibility to scale up and scale down as required.  With eBuilder Security, vulnerability scans can be conducted with a frequency of one scan per day/week, or month and can be customized according to the client’s requirements. You receive a detailed report after a scan with the identified vulnerabilities along with the actions and methods needed to be taken to mitigate them.

Our Vulnerability Scanning Service utilizes lightning-fast sensors that reveal the identified vulnerabilities in an instant after they have been detected; according to Acunetix itself, 90% of the scan results will be generated by the mid-way point of the scan, and the vulnerabilities will be prioritized automatically relevant for the risk level (from high to low risk vulnerabilities). 

A highly skilled team in eBuilder Security handles all the processes related to the vulnerability scanning services. With our service, you can either conduct your own scans and generate the required reports, or you can sit back and relax while the experts in eBuilder Security conduct the scans on behalf of you and provide the required reports for you in a secure manner.

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