Vulnerability Scanning Vs. Penetration Testing


6 December, 2016

Vulnerability scanning and penetration testing (or pen testing) are often used interchangeably in the field of IT security. Though these security tools are co-related, there are some key differences in the purpose for which each of them is carried out. Having a clear understanding is essential for the IT professionals to utilize the available resources judiciously.

Given below is a detailed description of vulnerability scanning and penetration testing:

Vulnerability Scanning

Vulnerability scanning refers to an in-depth and automated scan of the computer systems to identify any potential security flaws. It allows the organizations to evaluate the level of IT security protocols, detect weaknesses and differentiate the ones that can be exploited by the cybercriminals. The scan also involves providing a detailed report stating the steps required to either mitigate or diminish the security threats.

A vulnerability scanning process mainly involves the following steps:

  • Creating a list of the valued assets and resources in a computer system
  • Determining the importance and confidentiality of all the resources
  • Identifying the vulnerabilities, where they are located and categorize them according to their risk of being exploited
  • Eliminating the potential vulnerabilities for the most important files and data

Penetration Testing

Penetration testing involves simulating a cyber-attack to penetrate the corporate network and gain access to the sensitive data. Its main purpose is to determine if any malicious activity is possible and the way it can be carried out by the hackers. The IT security experts conduct a complete scan of the corporate network and attempt to exploit any of the identified vulnerabilities. Subsequently, a detailed report is provided stating what resources were accessed without permission, vulnerabilities that were exploited and how they can be fixed.

Essentially, penetration testing can be of two types, white box and black box. The former one involves the use of pre-disclosed information about the target company’s resources and network vulnerabilities. Black box testing, on the other hand, is performed with little or no knowledge of the security flaws in the target systems.

Though vulnerability scanning and penetration testing serve different objectives, both of them should be performed to improve an organizations’ overall IT security. Vulnerability scan should be carried out monthly and may take less than an hour to be completed. Penetration tests are recommended to be performed annually and may take a few weeks, depending upon its scope.

For more information on the importance of vulnerability scanning and penetration testing for your organization, feel free to contact Centex Technologies at (855) 375 – 9654.

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