Unfortunately, in many cases, these two terms are incorrectly used interchangeably. This post aims to clarify differences between vulnerability assessment and penetration testing, demonstrate that both are integral components of a well-rounded vulnerability management program, and discuss when and where each is more appropriate. A vulnerability assessment is the process of finding and measuring the severity of vulnerabilities in a system. Vulnerability assessments typically involve the use of automated testing tools such as web and network security scanners, whose results are typically assessed, and escalated to development and operations teams. In other words, vulnerability assessments involve in-depth evaluation of a security posture designed to uncover weaknesses and recommending appropriate remediation or mitigation to remove or reduce risk. In contrast, penetration testing, is typically a goal oriented exercise. A pentest has less to do with uncovering vulnerabilities, and is rather more focused on simulating a real-life attack, testing defences and mapping-out paths a real attacker could take to fulfil a real-world goal.
Penetration Testing Vs. Vulnerability
Vulnerability Assessments Versus Penetration Tests: A Common Misconception
It amazes me how many people confuse the importance of vulnerability scanning with penetration testing. Vulnerability scanning cannot replace the importance of penetration testing, and penetration testing on its own cannot secure the entire network. Penetration testing exploits vulnerabilities in your system architecture, while vulnerability scanning or assessment checks for known vulnerabilities and generates a report on risk exposure. Both penetration testing and vulnerability scanning depend mostly on three factors:. Penetration testing scope is targeted, and there is always a human factor involved. There is no such thing as automated penetration testing. It requires the use of tools, sometimes a lot, but it also requires an extremely experienced person to conduct the testing.
Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing Difference
Start your free trial. There is a substantial amount of confusion in the IT industry with regard to the difference between Penetration Testing and Vulnerability Assessment, as the two terms are incorrectly used interchangeably. However, defining these information security strategies and understanding their implications is a daunting task. Penetration testing, also known as ethical hacking or pen testing, is the proactive and systematic approach used by ethical hackers or pen testers to scale a simulated cyber attack in the face of corporate IT infrastructure to safely check for exploitable vulnerabilities.
X-Force Red is an autonomous team of veteran hackers within IBM Security that is hired to break into organizations and uncover risky vulnerabilities that criminal attackers may use for personal gain. Our team recently unveiled new statistics collected from its penetration testing engagements. One statistic that stood out, although not surprisingly, was that out of 1, phishing emails sent to employees within five organizations from October to November , people clicked on the malicious link inside the email and people submitted valid credentials. While those numbers do not appear significantly high, they still show that criminals had unique opportunities to move around inside a target organization and access sensitive data.