Penetration testing exploits a vulnerability in your system architecture while vulnerability scanning (or assessment) checks for known vulnerabilities and generates a report on risk exposure.
Penetration testing or Vulnerability scanning depends mostly on three factors:
- Risk and Criticality of assets
- Cost and Time
Penetration Testing Life Cycle
Vulnerability Scanning Life Cycle
|Standards||Penetration Testing||Vulnerability Assessments|
|Scope||Determines the scope of an attack.||Makes a directory of assets and resources in each system.|
|Resource||Tests sensitive data collection.||Discovers the potential threats to each resource.|
|Behavior||Gathers targeted information and/or inspect the system.||Allocates quantifiable value and significance to the available resources.|
|Output||Cleans up the system and gives final report.||Attempts to mitigate or eliminate the potential vulnerabilities of valuable resources.|
|Depth||It is non-intrusive, documentation and environmental review and analysis.||Comprehensive analysis and through review of the target system and its environment.|
|Environment||It is ideal for physical environments and network architecture.||It is ideal for lab environments.|
|Target||It is meant for critical real-time systems.||It is meant for non-critical systems.|
|Automation||Not Automated – Human Intervention required||Fully automated|
|Frequency||Once or twice a year, as well as anytime the Internet-facing equipment undergoes significant changes||At least quarterly, especially after new equipment is loaded or the network undergoes significant changes|
|Reports||Concisely identify what data was compromised||Provide a comprehensive baseline of what vulnerabilities exist and what changed since the last report|
|Focus||Discovers unknown and exploitable weaknesses in normal business processes||Lists known software vulnerabilities that could be exploited|
|Performed by||Best to use an independent outside service and alternate between two or three; requires a great deal of skill||Typically conducted by in-house staff using authenticated credentials; does not require a high skill level|
|Value||Identifies and reduces weaknesses||Detects when equipment could be compromised|
|Pricing||On higher side||On normal end , comparing to PT|
Both vulnerability scanning and penetration testing can feed into the cyber risk analysis process and help to determine controls best suited for the business, department, or a practice. They all must work together to reduce cybersecurity risk. It is very important to know the difference; each is important and has different purposes and outcomes.
Training is also important as providing a tool(s) to your security staff does not mean that the environment is secure. Lack of knowledge in using a tool(s) effectively poses a bigger security risk. In-depth knowledge of security tools will allow your teams to bring ROI in terms of quality, a good view of an organization’s security posture, and reducing cost and time spent on unnecessary troubleshooting.