Vulnerability scanning and penetration testing are important tools to secure and protect your IT infrastructure. Often, they get confused with each other but both play very different roles in overall network security.
So, what’s the difference and which should your business be using?
Vulnerability assessments are automated reports that search for known vulnerabilities within software, such as missing patches and outdated configuration, protocols, certificates and services. The output of this report would show any known vulnerability that exist within the network. Reports can be lengthy as the assessments take quite a comprehensive look at the network and applications.
The assessments can be ran on any number of devices throughout a network and is wide in scope. The results can then be used to remove potential risks before they could be exploited.
It is recommended to perform scans quarterly and every new device once configured, or if a major configuration change has taken place.
In comparison, penetration testing actively exploits weaknesses within the environment. An experienced person would carry out the testing, acting as an attacker by exploiting weaknesses within the network or applications otherwise known as ‘ethical hacking’. As a tester is needed, this testing cannot be automated.
The main aim of penetration testing is to identify insecure and weak security settings and configuration that a business outsider would be able to use to access the data held behind the defences such as un-encrypted passwords. The tester would probe an open port and see how far it can be exploited. Large networks can take anywhere from days to weeks to complete a full test. It is therefore best practice to have the testing performed by a fully qualified 3rd party; this also ensures a fully unbiased, objective report being developed.
Penetration testing doesn’t need to be performed as regularly as vulnerability assessments, instead only once a year or if internet facing equipment has a large change made.
What Should My Business Use?
In summary, a vulnerability assessment is used to detect when an unlocked door could let a burglar enter your business. A penetration test would role play as the burglar and see how far he’s able to get before a locked door stops him in his tracks.
Both tools should be used in conjunction and work together to provide the best outcome. Vulnerability assessments are designed to act as a detective tool; penetration testing is built to be a preventative measure.
Penetration testing is a lot more costly compared to vulnerability by itself, but this is due to the in-depth nature of the scanning as the tester may discover a new vulnerability or a security flaw that is not very well known.
IT’s important to know the difference between each test as each are important in their own way. To find out if Netshield can be of assistance, please contact us here.