Penetration Testing Vs Vulnerability Scanning

Penetration Testing Vs Vulnerability Scanning

Last Updated on 7 September 2023 by admin

Penetration testing and vulnerability scanning are two distinct vulnerability assessment approaches to test your application and infrastructure layers for weaknesses. They both have the same purpose, though: to find a vulnerability before a threat actor finds and exploits it.

In this blog, we highlight the distinguishing characteristics of penetration testing vs vulnerability and why you need to consider both.

What are the differences between penetration testing vs vulnerability scanning?

Vulnerabilities can arise from a variety of causes, including misconfigurations, poor encryption, and outdated or unpatched software. One of the key aims of security and IT teams is to ensure their external attack surface is as secure as possible. Many organizations use manual pen testing and vulnerability scans to uncover and exploit any weak points that an attacker could identify.

Penetration Testing: Simulating Real-World Attacks

Penetration testing, also known as pen testing or a pen test, is a type of ethical hacking in which an expert security professional intentionally exploits a specific vulnerability to access a targeted IT network, systems, or software application. A simulated cyberattack is used in this type of security testing to discover security problems in your digital environment.

Purpose of pen tests

To gain the most value from a pen test the engagement should be thoroughly scoped to ensure both sides are clear on the target systems, including all the relevant risk owners and technical stakeholders for streamlined communication. The objective is to report what vulnerabilities are present, and the severity of the vulnerabilities to understand what remediation steps are required to reduce your attack surface and risk posture.

The manual expertise and experience of a competent and qualified pen tester is the primary value of a penetration test. A wide range of manual and automated tools and techniques are used conforming to industry security testing methodologies such as the OWASP Top 10 will be part of their arsenal. By incorporating both human and automated intelligence, a penetration test distinguishes itself from vulnerability scanning.

Following the completion of the engagement, your pen test report will include and detail any detected vulnerabilities along with a risk severity score, which is frequently based on the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS). In addition, the report should include remediation advice and guidance to assist you in mitigating identified risks.

Benefits of pen testing

  •  Realistic assessment of security posture
  • Identification of potential security gaps
  • Evaluation of incident response capabilities
  • Mitigation of vulnerabilities through proactive testing

To learn more about penetration testing, head to the NCSC guidance page.

Vulnerability Scans: Unveiling Weaknesses

A vulnerability scan, on the other hand, is a fully automated method of assessing your risk level. This systematic review uses a range of scanning techniques to examine your digital infrastructure, applications, or network for any known vulnerabilities from a huge data pool in order to detect potential dangers.

Purpose of vulnerability scans

The primary purpose of vulnerability scans is to provide a comprehensive inventory of potential vulnerabilities within your network. This invaluable information allows your IT and security teams to prioritize and address these issues before they can be exploited.

Vulnerability scanning provides more coverage than penetration testing by assessing a broader scope (or breadth). As a result, this method will determine how vulnerable you are to a cyberattack, providing crucial information about your entire digital health. Vulnerability scanning, unlike penetration testing, is instantaneous and can collect massive amounts of data while detecting flaws in real-time.

Vulnerability scanning also helps you create trust with current and potential clients, which boosts your organization’s reputation. They are more likely to trust you with their sensitive data if they know you do regular security checks. As a result, it gives you a competitive advantage.

Benefits of vulnerability scanning

  • Rapid identification of vulnerabilities
  • Low impact on network performance
  • Cost-effective
  • Scalable for large networks

The Synergy Between Vulnerability Scans and Penetration Tests

Although network penetration testing and vulnerability scanning are different, they both serve the same purpose: to ensure that your security controls are providing appropriate protection against attackers. The key difference between these methodologies is clearly the scope and depth of the assessment, with vulnerability scanning covering a broader range and penetration testing being a more in-depth and manual effort.

Increasing reliance on cloud infrastructure unavoidably encourages the additional potential for vulnerabilities to be both introduced and potentially exploited. With nearly 80% of senior security and IT leaders lacking confidence in their cyber security posture it’s clear to see why both types of assessments are required.

Attacks can not only be operationally disruptive and damage your reputation, but they can also be completely fatal for the organization. So, cyber security should be considered an essential part of business, no longer a luxury but a necessity.

Security testing is also necessary for organizations to comply with data and security compliance. Many data security standards demand that penetration testing and/or vulnerability scanning be performed on a regular basis (such as HIPAA and The New York Shield Act). In light of our prior statement, we should expect privacy restrictions to tighten as we progress toward a more digital future. As a result, cyber security should take precedence in the boardroom.

In summary, vulnerability scans are the watchful eyes that uncover vulnerabilities, while penetration tests are the simulated adversaries that test your defences. Together, they create an unbeatable combination, equipping your organization to outmanoeuvre potential threats and secure your digital assets effectively.

Combine the best of both worlds with Informer

Informer adopts an innovative approach to address the challenges outlined above. The Informer attack surface management platform finds infrastructure and application-level vulnerabilities on assets both known and unknown to you, thanks to automation. Our experienced penetration testing services can be paired with vulnerability discovery to provide 24/7 coverage and ensure that your attack surface is always monitored for any changes in your digital environment.

Furthermore, automatic reports are comprehensive to provide clear insights, allowing access to key metrics including the number of assets discovered, vulnerabilities discovered, and remediations accomplished.

Get in touch today and book a demo with a member of our friendly team to find out how you can improve your security posture with continuous security monitoring and/or advanced penetration testing.