Vulnerability assessment and penetration testing are terms that most security professionals are familiar with (pen test). However, the terms are frequently used interchangeably, causing some confusion. Vulnerability assessments are not pen tests; however, they can be included in penetration tests. Let’s look at the distinctions between vulnerability assessment and penetration testing, which may appear unusual at first.
What are vulnerability assessments?
A vulnerability assessment identifies holes in your network but does not attempt to attack them. to find vulnerabilities, many vulnerability assessments use a scanning tool. The utility will rank or categorize the vulnerabilities discovered in your system. After the vulnerabilities have been classified the security professional can prioritize them and select which ones need to be fixed first. The vulnerability scanning tool may also make advice to the security team on how to fix the problem, such as patch management, configuration modifications, or hardening security infrastructure.
The process of vulnerability assessments
- A vulnerability scan can be performed using an tool which will scan inventory of all assets in your environment or combination of automated and manual scans.
- Searching for and identifying vulnerabilities in the network, apps, and infrastructure.
- Risk and priority are used to categorize the vulnerabilities (low, medium, and high risk)
- Patch management, configuration adjustments, or hardening of security infrastructure are used by IT security professionals to address vulnerabilities.
Benefits of Vulnerability Assessment:
- Identification of security exposures before potential attackers. Early identification allows companies to resolve issues before they are exploited at a significant cost to their assets and reputation.
- An assessment of company’s security posture.
- Vulnerability scans demonstrate the number of exposures associated with systems in each period.
- A multi-layered assessment of your infrastructure to identify dangers from both internal and external sources.
What is a penetration test?
A penetration test is more thorough than a vulnerability assessment and is best suited to a company with a well-developed security posture. The purpose of a penetration test is to find flaws in the network, apps, and infrastructure that can be used to gain access to sensitive and valuable information. You may wish to highlight the financial impact of these exploits on the business when doing a pen test.
In addition, unlike a vulnerability assessment, a pen test might include physical and social engineering testing. In these scenarios, the pen tester would look for flaws in an organization’s physical security, its workers, and the vendor it uses.
The process of a penetration test
- Reconnaissance or Open Source Intelligence Gathering
- Scanning and Discovery
- Vulnerability Identification
- Attack or Exploitation Phase
- Risk Analysis and Remediation Recommendations
Benefits of Penetration Testing:
- Increases Business Continuity
- Protect Clients, Partners, and Third Parties
- Protection from Financial Damage
- Helps to test cyber-defense capabilities.
Which is Best for Your Organization? Penetration Testing or Vulnerability Assessment.
A penetration test, as previously said, is a more thorough and complete test that demonstrates how exploits influence the organization. It may be beneficial to the organization’s business continuity and disaster recovery strategy. It can also reveal how well your security team responds to incidents, remediates them, and reports them.
Organizations that don’t have a stronghold on their security posture or require a starting point to measure and rank the vulnerabilities in their environment can benefit from a vulnerability assessment. Penetration testing is sometimes done on an annual basis to meet compliance and regulatory needs, whereas vulnerability assessment and the scanning might be done on a more frequent basis.