The key difference between vulnerability scanning and penetration testing concerns the focus of the security project.
- Vulnerability scanning focuses on a list-orientated approach
- Whereas during a penetration test the emphasis is goal-oriented
Our blog will explain the differences between vulnerability scanning and penetration testing while revealing that both security measures are vital elements of a comprehensive cyber security program.
The blog will also examine how to apply the most appropriate security technique for your organisation or project.
Which Security Measure Should I Adopt?
Picture the scenario you have developed a new internet facing (a system accessible from the public internet) product or service that is ready to launch. It could be your company’s new app. It may be the most significant sales and marketing tool you have ever launched. However, one critical question remains:
- Is it secure?
- Have you developed it with security in mind?
- Alternatively, was defending the system an afterthought?
Whatever your project stage now. Make sure the next time you develop any system that its security is discussed and tested in the early development of the project. Partner with a cyber security consultancy and follow the below three security processes to ensure its safety is the most effective.
Next Step: Three Security Processes
- Test the system for vulnerabilities
- Determine if those vulnerabilities are exploitable in your environment
- Find out what risks those vulnerabilities present to your firm or product launch
However, there is another way of explaining the different processes as they stand for these three security terms:
- Vulnerability Scanning (also known as Vulnerability assessment). Testing the system for vulnerabilities
- Penetration Testing (also known as Pen test). Determine if those vulnerabilities are exploitable in your environment
- Risk Analysis (also known as Risk assessment). Find out what risks those vulnerabilities present to your firm or product launch
Misunderstanding Of Security Methods - Sometimes the differences between a vulnerability scan, penetration test and a risk assessment can be misunderstood. Misunderstanding the differences between the security terms can lead an organisation to investigate the wrong security measure and in some cases carry it out believing it is the right security methodology for the assignment.
Susceptible To Attack - Moreover, failure to adopt the appropriate security technique could steer the company to be vulnerable and its product or service to be insecure and susceptible to a security breach or attack.
Understanding the Differences Between Security Terms Now we will explore the differences between vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, and risk analysis; and find out when each security measure should be applied.
A Good Starting Point - Conducting vulnerability scanning (vulnerability testing) is an excellent place to start in finding out your organisation’s level of security maturity. It focuses on a list of vulnerabilities that need to be fixed, without evaluating specific attack goals or scenarios.
Vulnerability Scanning can also be known as vulnerability management or a cyber vulnerability assessment.
Known Security Issues - Moreover, if you are already aware of security issues within your system through scanning, you can quickly identify any weaknesses and start to mitigate your risk levels.
Continuous Scanning - Companies with medium to high-security maturity often adopt a pattern of constant vulnerability scanning through automated scanning tools. Continuous cyber security vulnerability assessments help maintain security posture and are a good security practice.
Security Breadth Over Depth - When favouring security breadth over depth vulnerability assessments are most suitable.
Tools – Which Vulnerability Scan Should I Use?
During a vulnerability assessment, or a scan, a range of tools, scanners and practices are used to identify weaknesses, threats and risks. Here are some of the different types of vulnerability network scans available:
Application Vulnerability Assessment - Test your website against recognised software vulnerabilities. Detect misconfigurations in your system and web applications.
Database Vulnerability Assessments - Prevent malicious attacks on your database (SQL injection attacks) by identifying any weaknesses.
Host-Based Vulnerability Assessment - Receive increased visibility within your network (servers, workstations). Moreover, investigate the security of your configuration settings and discover the history of patched scanned systems.
Network-Based Vulnerability Assessment - Identify possible network security attacks through network-based scans. Learn the real vulnerability of your wired or wireless networks.
Wireless Vulnerability Assessment - Focus on points of attack in your wireless network infrastructure. Confirm the secure configuration of your network.
Goal Orientated Testing - In contrast to the list-oriented approach of vulnerability scanning, penetration testing is typically a goal-oriented exercise. A pen tester does not focus on identifying vulnerabilities. However, it aims to replicate what would occur in the event of a real-life security attack. The goal is to test the organisation's defences and determine the routes an attacker could choose to realise their aim of attacking the target. Penetration testing is also known as cyber security testing or a cyber security test.
Commission Penetration Testing - The organisations usually commission penetration tests when they have a high-level of security maturity.
Security Depth Over Breadth - Penetration testing is a suitable security measure for organisations focused on security depth over breadth.
Penetration Testing Tools - During a penetration test, security consultants may use automated tooling such as Metasploit. However, experienced testers will create their tooling exploits.
Vulnerability Risk Analysis - A risk assessment or risk analysis does not use any scanning tools or applications. It is concerned with analysing a specific vulnerability and determines the level of overall risk of exploitation to the business.
Real-Life Risk - A real-life example could be the risk to an organisation’s server from the vulnerability Heartbleed.
Risk Report - Following a risk analysis, the security analyst will produce a risk report detailing the risk rating of the vulnerability. The report will also outline the mitigating controls needed to be implemented to reduce the risk further.
Cyber Security Program - In conclusion, each security measure discussed in this blog are not independent of one another. However, each security technique can complement each other and forms part of your more extensive cyber security program.
Step One - Vulnerability Assessment - Vulnerability assessments can be the first step in developing a robust security program. The scans run wide-ranging sweeps of a network to find missing patches or misconfigured software.
Step Two - Penetration Test - Next, a penetration test is conducted to see how exploitable the vulnerability is.
Step Three – Measure Risk - Then risk analysis can be performed to determine the cost and merit of resolving the weakness. However, implementing a risk analysis is optional but advised to mitigate ongoing risk to the system and organisation.
Understanding The Difference - Understanding the difference between security techniques is very important. Each security measure will help strengthen your security posture.
Cyber Security Consultancy - Work with an experienced cyber security consultancy that can guide you through each stage of your security maturity program.