There is nothing small about the network issues small and mid-sized businesses face. They face the same threats as larger enterprises, but generally have just the fraction of resources—smaller budgets and smaller IT teams with less security expertise—available to a larger enterprise. For small businesses, the PureCloud service from nCircle is exactly what they need: an enterprise-ready vulnerability scanner to build a prioritized list of vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the network.
Regular network audits can uncover vulnerabilities in the network, identify rogue or outdated systems, and create an accurate picture of what the network currently looks like. PureCloud takes the pain out of network security by giving administrators actionable steps to remediate underlying issues before something goes wrong.
As PureCloud is software as a service, there is no hardware to deploy and no software to install. I signed up on the nCircle Website and I immediately saw the dashboard view for the platform. All a business really needs for PureCloud is a Web browser with an up-to-date version of Flash installed.
While it is free to sign up with PureCloud, nCircle offers an annual subscription of $49 for unlimited scanning per IP address. While that can easily add up, it’s in line with other competing products. Customers can also sign up for a monthly subscription, and they start as low as $4.90 per IP address per month. Volume discounts are also available.
Administrators can click on “unlock” within the generated report to sign up for the subscription and see the complete list of issues. The service provides full results for free for one IP address. For most businesses, having just results for one IP address won’t be useful; they will need to sign up for a full subscription.
The Dashboard View
The dashboard is split into two parts: scan jobs and charts. A scorecard on the left compares the average risk score for the systems in my network with the average risk score for “Benchmark,” as calculated by nCircle. A pie chart on the right displays the percentage of systems in my network with no vulnerabilities, or low, medium priority, and high priority vulnerabilities. Another pie chart displays the same breakdown for the Benchmark. nCircle collects security metrics from its customers to calculate the Benchmark, which is used as a baseline comparison on PureCloud. The charts are great for a quick view of how the network measures up to others.
The top part of the dashboard displays all scan jobs that have already been defined, and the IP addresses associated with each job. I could click on the IP address to see a detailed report, or just look at the overall security score assigned to each system as part of the last scan. The table also displays machine information, such as the hostname and the installed operating system. I wished there was a way to update those fields for the ones PureCloud couldn’t identify. For example, while the scanner found two laptops on my network, it was not able to detect they were Ubuntu Linux machines. The resulting network inventory could have been more useful if I could have updated some of those fields.
Running the Scan
With PureCloud, organizations don’t have to make any changes to the firewall, or worry about deploying hardware or software onto the network. There is no need to push out software agents on every single device. All you need to do before running an internal scan is to install a “connector,” a piece of software which establishes a virtual private network (VPN) connection between the computer and the PureCloud scanning engine hosted on nCircle servers. The PureCloud Secure Connectors created a secure encrypted tunnel between my network and the PureCloud scanner, so that all the data stayed within that tunnel.
An internal scan would inventory all my devices, identify where they are vulnerable (such as giving guest accounts too many privileges) and provide recommendations on how to fix the issues. The perimeter scan would check my network from the outside to identify any weakness that would make me vulnerable to attack.
I could always rerun the scan job or schedule it for a later date through the dashboard. I could create new scans via a wizard where I defined a list of hostnames or IP addresses to scan. When I began a scan job, I was told I would receive an email when the scan was complete. I appreciated that I didn’t have to repeatedly check back to see if I was done or not. If I was feeling particularly impatient, I could still check the dashboard and watch the scan in progress.
After the Scan
The strength of PureCloud is most evident in its reports. The email notification has a link to the generated PDF report as well as a one-line summary of how many vulnerabilities the scan found. The PDF report shows the same charts as the dashboard, and then uses red, yellow, green indicators to indicate which vulnerabilities need attention first.
I ran PureCloud on my mixed OS test network of 11 systems and found 34 vulnerabilities. A perimeter scan uncovered another 10, including an expired SSL certificate. PureCloud uses the same scan engine as the company’s flagship i360 product, which means the platform can scan for over 70,000 network conditions, according to nCircle.
I could see at a glance which IP addresses had the most vulnerabilities and its associated security score. PureCloud automatically categorized the issues into “low” “medium” and “high” priorities. Clicking on the address opened up a detailed report with information about the weaknesses and steps to take to remediate the issue.
PureCloud has a number of competitiors in the vulnerability scanning space, but the closest one is possibly the Retina CS from BeyondTrust (as part of the eEye Digital Security acquisition). Retina is agent-based and has a much more extensive set of features, making it a bit more complex than PureCloud. Both are excellent, but each aims for a different segment of the market and, each has its own use case.
Exactly What the SMB Needs
It’s quite evident nCircle thought carefully about what the small business segment needs from a vulnerability assessment tool, and delivered an easy-to-use platform. PureCloud provides users with information on how many issues are on the device, and the severity of each. The easy-to-read nature of the reports means even non-vulnerability gurus can follow along and take action to secure the network. This is particularly helpful for that lone IT person tasked with keeping the network secure on top of all the other things on the to-do list. As vulnerability scanners go, PureCloud is quite robust and earns every bit of its four-star rating.
PureCloud doesn’t have the breadth of features as BeyondTrust’s Retina CS, but administrators looking for something quick and easy to get started will find that PureCloud delivers exactly what they need.
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|OS Compatibility||Windows Vista, Windows XP, Linux, Mac OS, Windows 7, Windows 8|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc