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What is the difference between Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing?


Lot of time we have seen customer asking about the difference between network or application vulnerability assessment and penetration test. So here is quick difference between the two types of testing:

Vulnerability Assessment and Penetration Testing difference:

  • Vulnerability Analysis is the process of identifying vulnerabilities on a network, whereas a Penetration Testing is focused on actually gaining unauthorized access to the tested systems and using that access to the network or data, as directed by the client.
  • A Vulnerability Analysis provides an overview of the flaws that exist on the system while a Penetration Testing goes on to provide an impact analysis of the flaws identifies the possible impact of the flaw on the underlying network, operating system, database etc.
  • Vulnerability assessment use scanners to identify vulnerabilities that throws lot of false positives .In Penetration testing as there is human intervention to exploit vulnerabilities false positives does not exist.

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  • Vulnerability Analysis is more of a passive process. In Vulnerability Analysis you use software tools that analyze both network traffic and systems to identify any exposures that increase vulnerability to attacks. Penetration Testing is an active practice wherein ethical hackers are employed to simulate an attack and test the network and systems’ resistance.
  • Vulnerability Analysis deals with potential risks, whereas Penetration Testing is actual proof of concept. Vulnerability Analysis is just a process of identifying and quantifying the security Vulnerabilities in a system. Vulnerability Analysis doesn’t provide validation of Security Vulnerabilities. Validation can be only done by Penetration testing.
  • The scope of a Penetration Testing can vary from a Vulnerability Analysis to fully exploiting the targets to destructive testing. Penetration Testing consists of a Vulnerability Analysis, but it goes one step ahead where in you will be evaluating the security of the system by simulating an attack usually done by a Malicious Hacker.
    For instance a Vulnerability Analysis exercise might identify absence of anti-virus software on the system or open ports as a vulnerability. The Penetration Testing will determine the level to which existing vulnerabilities can be exploited and the damage that can be inflicted due to this.

Free Download:  Business Logic Vulnerabilities Checklist

  • A Vulnerability Analysis answers the question: “What are the present Vulnerabilities and how do we fix them?” A Penetration Testing simply answers the questions: “Can any External Attacker or Internal Intruder break-in and what can they attain?”
  • A Vulnerability Analysis works to improve security posture and develop a more mature, integrated security program, where as a Penetration Testing is only a snapshot of your security program’s effectiveness.
    Commonly Vulnerability Assessment goes through the following phases: Information Gathering, Port Scanning, Enumeration, Threat Profiling & Risk Identification, Network Level Vulnerability Scanning, Application Level Vulnerability Scanning, Mitigation Strategies Creation, Report Generation, and Support. Where as a Penetration Testing Service however have following phases: Information Gathering, Port Scanning, Enumeration, Social Engineering, Threat Profiling & Risk Identification, Network Level Vulnerability Assessment, Application Level Vulnerability Assessment, Exploit Research & Development, Exploitation, Privilege Escalation, Engagement Analysis, Mitigation Strategies, Report Generation, and Support.

Remember: Vulnerability Analysis is more of a passive process. It thus gives lots of unnecessary details for network administrators to deal with. Penetration Testing is an active practice with actual simulation of attack attempts. It thus presents accurate findings and vulnerabilities to deal with. This enhances the Vulnerability management effort and makes security administrators more productive.

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