The Cyber Security Services, Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT), provides enterprises with a more comprehensive application evaluation than any single test alone. Many information security professionals are familiar with the terms” ‘vulnerability assessment” and “penetration testing” (“pentest” for short). Unfortunately, in many cases, these two terms are incorrectly used interchangeably. In layman’s terms, if we imagine that your application or network is a locked door, a vulnerability assessment trying to identify all the possible locks that exist on the door. Penetration testing, on the other hand, is where an ethical hacker takes their big bag of keys and attempts to open each one of the locks with every single “key”, hoping to open the door — but with permission.
Given the ambiguity of both the teams IT security world, I am writing this blog to clarify the subtle differences between the two.
In general terms both vulnerability assessment and penetration testing are integral components of a well-rounded vulnerability management program. Let us 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 yield lists of vulnerabilities, often prioritized by severity and/or business criticality. Vulnerability assessment tools discover which vulnerabilities are present, but they do not differentiate between flaws that can be exploited to cause damage and those that cannot.
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 pen test is an authorized simulated cyber-attack on a computer system, performed to evaluate the security of the system. The test is performed to identify vulnerabilities, including the potential for unauthorized parties to gain access to the system’s features and data, as well as strengths, enabling a full risk assessment to be completed. A Pen Test has less to do with uncovering vulnerabilities, and is rather more focused on simulating a real-life attack, testing defenses and mapping-out paths a real attacker could take to fullfil a real-world goal. In other words, a penetration test is usually about how an attacker is able to breach defenses and less about specific vulnerabilities.
So, given that vulnerability assessment and penetration testing typically leverage many of the same tools and techniques, which methodology should you opt for, when, and why?
Since penetration testing tests security defenses across a path towards a goal, it is generally more useful when the target’s security maturity level is high — that is, when the target’s security defenses are believed to be strong. Penetration testing is an effective methodology of testing assertions about systems’ defenses with specific goals in mind. This means that penetration testing is most suitable in situations where depth over breadth is preferred. Vulnerability assessment, on the other hand is especially well suited in situations where there are known security issues, or when an organization which is not as security mature would like to get started. Alternatively, vulnerability assessment is an ideal methodology for organizations who have a medium to high security maturity and would like to maintain their security posture through continuous vulnerability assessment — especially effective when automated security testing is leveraged. Vulnerability assessment is therefore an approach which focuses on providing organizations with a list of vulnerabilities that need to be fixed, without evaluating specific attack goals or scenarios. This makes vulnerability assessment most suitable for situations where breadth over depth is preferred.
To such an extent, the fundamental difference between vulnerability assessment and penetration testing is the former being list-oriented and the latter being goal-oriented.
To prevent your organization from possible breaches and reinforce existing security controls against a skilled attacker, the Connectis platform combines both Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing (VAPT) methods. By doing so, Connectis provides both a full list of the flaws found and a measurement of the risk posed by each flaw. Our scanning approach produces more accurate testing results using methodologies developed and continually refined by a team of world-class experts. At the end of the VAPT procedure, we provide our customers with an extensive set of reports and recommendations to effectively eliminate the detected breaches. Our team of cyber security experts are always ready to help you design and implement the most relevant defense for your IT environment and the information stored within it. Feel free to reach us to get the answers to any security-related questions you have. You can reach us at 9056952200 or firstname.lastname@example.org, visit our website https://www.connectis.ca/cyber-security/ to learn more about our services portfolio.
Lastly, penetration testing can provide evidence regarding the security controls that are in place and hence justifies continued or additional investment in security personnel and technology to executive management and investors.
Connectis has helped many organizations to solve the toughest challenges faced by them across an ever-evolving digital threat landscape. Our solutions enable clients to find, fix, stop, and ultimately solve Cyber Security problems across their entire enterprise and product portfolios. We test your internal and external networks with a combination of automated sweeps and detailed manual testing.