Vulnerability Assessment vs Penetration Testing – Let’s Clear The Confusion!

A vulnerability assessment is a methodical review of security issues in an information system. It assesses if the system is susceptible to any given vulnerabilities, assigns inflexibility situations to those vulnerabilities, and recommends remediation or mitigation if and whenever demanded.

On the other hand, a penetration test, or a pen test, is a simulated cyberattack against your computer system to check for vulnerabilities exploitable by the program. Typically, a pen test seems more “manual” and “invasive,” resulting in more vulnerabilities.

Comparison of Vulnerability Assessment Vs Penetration Testing

FeaturesVulnerability AssessmentPenetration Testing
PriceRelatively lessRelatively high
Cost DependencyDependent on the number of applications scanned or serversDependent on the magnitude of the organization
Maintenance costRelatively lessRelatively high
Identification of vulnerabilitiesIdentifies all types of cyber threatsIdentifies all types of cyber threats
PerimeterPerform within the security parameterPerform outside the security parameter
FunctionReports the scanned vulnerabilitiesExploit the weaknesses and determine the degree of authorization the malicious attacker can take over your assets
Equipment dependantIt can be automated It requires different levels of expertise
Ease of use Relatively easierRelatively tough

What is a vulnerability scan?

A vulnerability scan reviews computer systems, networks, and infrastructures for security weaknesses. These scans may be automated and can provide the first result of the vulnerabilities.

Vulnerability scans can find over 50,000 vulnerabilities and are required by the PCI DSS, FFIEC, and GLBA mandates.

Vulnerability scans can be set up according to a specific schedule with a manual scanning process and run for several minutes to several hours.

A vulnerability scan is an approach to finding vulnerabilities to harden your infrastructure and prevent the potential threat of the detected vulnerabilities. At first, it is important to understand how to configure your vulnerability assessment to identify the vulnerabilities properly, then, after discovering the vulnerabilities, take the appropriate action to remediate them. Vulnerability scans should be conducted to ensure the information assets are being scanned by a PCI Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV).

Vulnerability scan reporting

A detailed report is generated after a vulnerability scan is completed. It often provides a long list of vulnerabilities along with a description, impact, and remediation suggestion for each.

The report might identify weaknesses, but occasionally produces false positives. A false-positive result indicates an issue that is not a real problem. You may avoid false-positive results by conducting re-scans to ensure that the vulnerabilities exist, although this may still result in false-positive results. 

There are different risk scores, such as critical, high, medium, and low. This allows a scanner to rank vulnerabilities into risk groups and so you can prioritize your remediation efforts and budget on critical and high vulnerabilities that are the highest potential risk.

Benefits & Limitations of Vulnerability Scans

Benefits

Limitations

What is a penetration test?

A penetration test shows a hacker how a company network or application may be exploited through research, identifying vulnerabilities, and then exploiting them. A hacker who also engages in ethical hacking is also called a penetration tester. Penetration testers often work through password cracking, buffer overflow, injection attacks, security misconfiguration, and more on the target system.

A penetration test is an extremely detailed and effective approach to finding and remediating software applications and networks vulnerabilities. Researchers can describe a penetration test by way of an analogy from the medical world that can undergo a diagnostic x-ray to determine the source of the problem.

The image resulting from an X-ray machine can provide cause for a fracture, but it’s not enough to see broken bones. If you want to find out the real problem about what may be inside a body, you must go through an MRI scan. In this example, you receive a detailed report on a 3D model of the bones and soft tissues inside your body.

A vulnerability assessment (fuzzy X-ray) and a penetration test (MRI) are very similar. If you really want to find out serious issues in applications and networks, you need a penetration test. A penetration test significantly improves your security posture by finding vulnerabilities with varying severity levels and putting you in a position to protect your information assets. 

Penetration testing is a method that is often a requirement in many security standards (PCI DSS, SOC 2, FedRAMP, HIPAA, Type2, etc.). 

The cost of penetration tests can vary greatly. The cost depends on several factors, including the size of the application, the type of penetration test, the experience of the penetration-testing company/individual, and more.

The key difference between penetration testing and vulnerability scanning is the live human element. Automatic penetration tests are not an option, as humans are the only ones performing the penetration test. 

A penetration tester’s main objective is to identify and exploit vulnerabilities against a targeted information asset.

Penetration Test Reporting

After every penetration test, our team will provide you with an in-depth report that includes a description of each vulnerability, the potential impact, how to re-create the vulnerability, its severity level, and a suggestion on how to remediate it.

Benefits & Limitations of Penetration Test

Benefits

Limitations

Which is better? And A vulnerability scan or penetration test?

A vulnerability scan & penetration test both work together to encourage optimal network and application security. Vulnerability scanning is effective on a weekly basis, monthly, or quarterly, while penetration testing provides a far more in-depth checkup of the security of your information assets. 

If you’re still unsure which is best for you, reach out to our team here at MalwareCare and we would be happy to provide a free consultation!

Conclusion:

Both of these testing methods are needed in different situations. You can define which service you need on special occasions, but one isn’t always better than another. After knowing all the pros and cons, hopefully know you have a better idea which one would be better for you in this particular situation. 

Our team at MalwareCare, has expert security engineers to help you meet your goals, within your budget. 

Feel free to ask any questions; our experts are waiting for your queries!