62% of cyberattack victims reported that the attacker was able to exploit weaknesses that were previously unknown. Hackers bank on their victims’ lack of awareness, after all, it’s hard for anyone to know the unknown.
Vulnerability scans and penetration tests both help you identify potential weaknesses in your network. Despite similar goals, these two types of tests are different in several important ways.
This article will examine vulnerability scanning and penetration testing and explain why they’re both important to cyber security strategies. We’ll explore what each process does and what your business can gain from them.
What Is Vulnerability Scanning?
Vulnerability scans (also known as vulnerability assessments) are when an automated tool screens your system for potential weaknesses. No matter how good your network security is, there will usually be some. 75% of software applications have at least one security flaw.
And as hackers continue to seek vulnerabilities, regular vulnerability testing is vital for minimizing risks.
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After your vulnerability scanner completes a check, you will receive a report that shows you your network vulnerabilities. You can use this information to patch detected vulnerabilities and enhance your security posture. Leaving yourself in the dark leaves you open to cyberattacks.
What Is Penetration Testing?
Penetration tests (also known as pen testing) involve ethical “hackers” who detect your network vulnerabilities by seeing if they can grant themselves access.
Pen testing methodology is incredibly detailed as the analyst (posing as a malicious actor) will try to use every trick in the book to penetrate your network. Penetration testing and vulnerability scans work hand-in-hand to identify your weak spots and exactly how a hacker may exploit them.
The analyst who performed the test will give you a penetration test report that discusses their findings. This report will showcase where your vulnerabilities are and how they were able to enter your network.
Knowing how a hacker might attack you can help you proactively plan your attack mitigation strategy.
What is the Main Difference Between Vulnerability Scanning and Penetration Testing?
The main difference between pen testing and vulnerability scanning is what each test reveals. A network’s weak points are revealed by vulnerability scans, and penetration tests figure out how to exploit them.
Although that is the main difference, there are a few more differences worth discussing. See the table below for a quick overview of vulnerability scanning vs. penetration testing.
Penetration Test vs. Vulnerability Scan
|Vulnerability Scan||Pen Test|
|An automated system performs vulnerability scans. Tools are user-friendly. So, most business owners can run scans independently post-consultation.||A cyber security professional must be present when penetration tests occur. Pen tests involve complex processes to imitate what an actual hacker might do.|
|A business should run a vulnerability scan at least every quarter, whether or not they explicitly performed system updates. Computers will sometimes perform automatic updates without the user’s knowledge.||Penetration tests can be performed less frequently than vulnerability scans. However, one should be done every time internet-connected systems change.|
|Only shows you where your network vulnerabilities are.||Shows you exactly how a hacker could exploit which vulnerabilities.|
Why Your Organization’s Security Strategy Needs Both
As you compare vulnerability scanning vs. penetration testing, it’s easy to assume that you only need one or the other. In reality, pen testing and vulnerability scanning are both crucial to your cyber defense.
The right time to do each one depends upon your budget, business goals, and current concerns. However, you need to know where your network vulnerabilities are and how hackers might exploit them before you can craft an effective cyber strategy.
Redpoint Cybersecurity will help you get there. Our consultants can let you know when the right time is for each process. We have extensive experience performing vulnerability scans and offer Pen Testing as a Service led by ethical hackers with nation-state experience.
You don’t need to compare pen testing vs. vulnerability scans to pick only one. Contact us to fortify your network’s defenses with both.