Steve Salisbury
Hybrid Cloud Security
Agentless Scanning
In this article:

Ensuring robust cybersecurity measures is paramount, and it is crucial to understand the importance of agentless scanning for both cloud and on-premises workloads. This article explores the definitions and compares both agent-based and agentless scanning methods, emphasizing the numerous advantages of agentless scanning. 

Understanding Agent-Based Scanning and Agentless Scanning

To grasp the significance of agentless scanning, it's essential to distinguish it from traditional agent-based scanning methods.

Agent-Based Scanning

Agent-based scanning involves deploying software agents on individual endpoints or virtual machines within a network. These agents collect data and transmit it to a central server for analysis. While agent-based scanning has been widely used, it is important to understand its limitations.

  • Requires the installation of agents to scan their systems: It necessitates the installation of a software module on the device that is monitored. The agent is responsible for collecting data and sending it back to the monitoring platform.
  • Consumes compute resources: Agent-based approaches require the use of compute resources on the targeted systems, potentially impacting performance when those resources are limited.
  • Can expose and compromise data assets: The agents themselves need to be secure, and every time you add an agent it is another piece of software that needs to run in your most critical data assets – exposing another attack vector.
  • Time and IT resource-consumption: The deployment of agents requires time and expenditure of IT resources. Moreover, maintaining and updating the agents and additional deployments for new resources can introduce additional issues.

Agentless Scanning

Agentless scanning, on the other hand, eliminates the need for deploying software agents. It leverages existing protocols, APIs, snapshots, and network-level communication to gather information directly from the target systems. By relying on these native interfaces, agentless scanning reduces resource usage, minimizes network overhead, and ensures compatibility across various cloud platforms.

Advantages of Agentless Scanning for On-premises & Cloud Workloads

Now, let's delve into the compelling reasons why you should consider adopting solutions with agentless scanning techniques to enhance your organization's security posture.

  • Simplicity: Since there's no need to install, maintain, or update agents on each target system, deployment is simplified. This is particularly useful for organizations with diverse environments.
  • Lower Overhead: Agentless solutions leverage existing protocols and services to scan the targeted devices remotely, therefore freeing up valuable system resources, minimizing performance impact, and helping to reduce maintenance costs.
  • No Persistent Footprint: Without permanent agents, there's no risk of the agents becoming outdated or corrupted.
  • Rapid Deployment: Agentless solutions can be quickly rolled out across the environment, allowing for faster responses to emerging threats or compliance needs.
  • Fewer Compatibility Issues: Without the need for an agent, there's less worry about software compatibility issues or conflicts with other applications.
  • Lower Maintenance Overhead: Without the need to manage and update agents on individual devices, maintenance is generally simpler and less resource-intensive.
  • Flexibility: Agentless scanning can be more adaptable to varied IT environments. For instance, you can easily scan a system that is only occasionally connected to the network.
  • Reduced Attack Surface: Since there are no agents permanently installed on the target system, there's one less potential avenue for attackers to exploit.

Agentless Scanning for VMware & AWS Guest OS

Cloud environments, especially Cloud Native Application Platform (CNAPP) solutions (of which Runecast was awarded by Frost & Sullivan for the uniqueness of our on-prem CNAPP solution), have witnessed some adoption of agentless scanning by leading industry players. However, in the context of VMware environments, the agentless approach has remained largely unexplored – until now.

Runecast's Agentless Scanning for VMware Guest OS

Beginning with version 6.8 (released 7 November 2023), Runecast introduced the capability for secure agentless scanning of vSphere guest operating systems. This new scanning method allows for the assessment of vulnerabilities in operating systems hosted on vSphere virtual machines without having to install agents, use additional credentials, or rely on VMware tools.

This enhancement provides a streamlined and non-invasive monitoring approach that diminishes the typical demands of maintenance and deployment time, while also minimizing potential points of vulnerability in your network environment.By continuously analyzing your environment, Runecast helps identify and mitigate risks, vulnerabilities, and misconfigurations without adding unnecessary complexity or resource overhead. Explore industry-first agentless scanning for VMware workloads in this article.

Runecast's Agentless Scanning for AWS Workloads

The Runecast platform also provides agentless vulnerability scanning for Amazon Web Services (AWS). This capability is designed to streamline OS security by introducing an agentless vulnerability scanning feature for AWS EC2 Linux instances. It makes vulnerability scanning particularly feasible for dynamic cloud environments, where deploying and updating agents can be burdensome. Find out more about our AWS agentless scanning.

Workload scanning without the necessity to deploy agents ensures that you can get immediate results about your environment’s security posture with minimum effort, no maintenance requirements, reduced attack vectors, and fewer vital resources required to run the solution.

The Best-In-Market Agentless Platform

Runecast provides secure agentless scanning of your AWS, Linux on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, Kubernetes, Windows and Linux OS running in VMs, and VMware, to ensure swift deployment and automatic asset detection from the initial scan of the environment. No need for Admins to deploy agents, and your organization gets an instant view of all your assets. Newly added assets are automatically discovered, making it easy to immediately identify any issues that may exist.

Designed as a single platform to visualize your global environments, Runecast has no extra modules, no agents required for deployment, and can be deployed to start providing insights within 15 minutes, for your hybrid, multi-cloud or on-prem environments (it can also run air-gapped, with offline updates).

Conclusion: Leverage Agentless to YOUR Advantage 

Agentless scanning can provide several advantages over traditional methods that require the deployment of software agents, such as:

  • Faster and easier deployment
  • Attack vector reduction
  • No requirement for extra resources for scanning

Agentless scanning for OSes brings the added benefit that when Runecast is updated, all of the agentless maintenance is rolled into the latest release, meaning that your admins don’t have the time consuming process of maintaining agents deployed in the environment.

Note: Runecast provides agent-based and agentless scanning for Windows and Linux operating systems, ensuring you can choose which scenario best suits your environment and providing the option for a hybrid approach.

Runecast is an agentless security platform that can be deployed to AWS, Azure, Kubernetes, and VMware environments (see all integrations). It provides complete visibility into your environment and allows your organization to quickly detect any new assets added to the network without the need to deploy agents. 

Runecast provides proactive alignment with vendor best practices, risk-based vulnerability assessment, security, and continuous compliance monitoring to ensure every aspect of your environment is protected. In addition, Runecast also provides visibility into configuration drift and capacity management, and prioritizes findings, provides remediation scripts, and ensures continuous compliance audits within your environment.

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