What is a Computer Vulnerability?
In spite of the best efforts of the developers, all operating system (OS) and software/application have flaws. A flaw is a vulnerability if it has the potential of allowing unauthorized users to make unintended use of the computer.
Developers and hackers are in a constant race to find those vulnerabilities and see if they can be patched before they get exploited. The developers' best efforts can be thwarted if you, the end user, do not apply the patches and updates they produce.
If you are using a university computer, your office may have a computer support person who keeps your computer patched and updated for you. Ask around to see if that is true for you.
If you own the computer, you are probably your own computer support person. For the protection of your own private information and the investment you made in the computer, you must be sure that your computer OS and software are always kept up-to-date. You can probably schedule your OS to check for updates frequently and alert you when one is available.
How does the USU IT Security Team discover vulnerabilities on your computer?
Each week, we scan all computers connected to the USU Network (all active IP addresses, actually) using Nessus, a product of Tenable Network Security. Nessus has thousands of "plug-ins" that each attempt to probe an IP address for a particular vulnerability. Many of them are sequential, so that when one plug-in fails to get in, many related plug-ins are skipped. If a computer is well secured, it only takes a few plug-ins to determine that before moving on.
After the scan is completed, we manually review the Nessus report of findings for vulnerabilities that are significant in our environment. We compile those selections (you must login with your A-Number to see that link) and determine who has registered each computer. Each person gets a customized email message with an explanation and a link to our analysis and to the actual report for their individual computer.
We give the owners a few days to acknowledge the notification and respond that the problem has been corrected or provide a schedule for addressing the problem. If some owners don't respond by our deadline, we disable their computer registration until we get that response.
We do not charge a fee for finding vulnerabilities. We do, however, charge a fee when we find an active compromise of a computer because we disable the network access immediately to interrupt the compromise activity.