Vulnerability Testing vs. Penetration Testing

Vulnerability testing is important, but only penetration testing can uncover zero-day vulnerabilities. Learn the difference between these methods and why your organization needs both.

There are two types of testing that will evaluate the strength of your organization’s security by identifying critical vulnerabilities in your system: vulnerability testing and penetration testing. Both are essential and share the same goals, but they provide different advantages. Some organizations only focus on vulnerability testing and have yet to take advantage of penetration testing as well.

If your business isn’t using both types of testing, your system could be exploited easier than you might think. Keep reading to learn the difference between vulnerability and penetration testing, and why your organization needs both.

Penetration Testing vs. Vulnerability Scanning

A vulnerability assessment uses special tools to discover, categorize, and score security vulnerabilities in a system. Penetration testing involves actively exploiting vulnerabilities to gain insight into how much damage can be caused if those vulnerabilities were exploited by a real threat actor.

Vulnerability Testing

Vulnerability testing uses automated software to find vulnerabilities in a system. You can perform a vulnerability assessment on your website, company network, devices, or any application. As the software scans your systems, it compares findings to a database of known vulnerabilities.

For example, if your website is running on WordPress, you’ll want to run regular tests to make sure your website is secure. A WordPress installation is only partially secure when you keep all plugins, themes, and core files updated and patched. There’s still the possibility of unknown vulnerabilities that haven’t been patched.

Unfortunately, since vulnerability testing is automated, it can turn up false positives and it can miss some of the most critical and complex vulnerabilities, including ones that lead to zero-day exploits. Although, vulnerability testing is much faster and cheaper than penetration testing since it’s automated.

Even though vulnerability testing can miss critical vulnerabilities, it can detect quite a bit, and it’s extremely helpful. However, it’s best supplemented by the manual methods of penetration testing.

Penetration Testing

If you’ve ever heard the term “ethical hacking,” it’s a term that describes a penetration tester. A penetration tester does the following:

  • Actively exploits vulnerabilities to gain insight into how severe the vulnerability is and what the consequences might be in the case of real exploitation.
  • Uses manual intervention techniques in addition to automated scanning.
  • Detects logic errors that automated software can’t detect.

Unlike automated vulnerability scanning, penetration testers can guarantee zero false positives. However, penetration testing does take more time and resources, which is why some companies opt out of this process. Saving money is understandable, but skipping penetration testing will leave your company vulnerable.

You Need Penetration and Vulnerability Testing To Stay Secure

To secure your organization’s systems to the highest degree possible, you need to perform both penetration testing and vulnerability assessments. You can’t rely on automated software alone to keep your systems secure.

Get peace of mind with our IT vulnerability testing services.

How strong is your security posture? Are you confident that your existing security can thwart common attacks like ransomware, malware, and insider threats? How long would it take for you to find a vulnerability before it’s exploited?

If you don’t know exactly where your organization stands concerning cybersecurity, we can help. We can protect your organization’s systems with our IT vulnerability and penetration testing services. Call us today to schedule an onsite assessment.

Penetration Testing Catches Zero Day Vulnerabilities

There’s one major shortcoming with relying solely on vulnerability testing. You’ll never catch zero-day vulnerabilities. A zero-day vulnerability has yet to be discovered by the software developer, is only known to hackers, and won’t be in the database of known vulnerabilities. Since vulnerability testing can only reference known vulnerabilities in the database, it’s not going to protect your organization from zero-day attacks, which actually happen more often than you might think.

To stay ahead of threats, penetration testing should be a critical component in your cybersecurity plan.

The Consequences of Open Vulnerabilities

Not actively testing for vulnerabilities in your company’s systems can lead to serious consequences. For instance, if an exploit leads to a data breach, your company could be fined thousands of dollars in regulatory fines, and your reputation will suffer. A vulnerability that facilitates a ransomware attack could lead to data loss and force you to rebuild your business by replacing compromised devices or rebuilding some of your systems.

The consequences of having open vulnerabilities can be severe when you experience an attack. But the problem is you can’t predict when an attack will occur. However, with managed IT security services, you can stay ahead of the game.

Skipping Pen Testing Raises Your Risks

Not employing penetration testing is a bad idea since it’s the only way to discover where your biggest vulnerabilities lie within your systems. Although some organizations choose to skip penetration testing because of the cost, they remain at risk for a zero-day exploit.

The more software your organization uses, the more vulnerable you are, considering each piece of software will come with unique vulnerabilities that hackers are looking to exploit.

Secure your systems with vulnerability and penetration testing.

Cyberattacks drastically increase in frequency every year, and unless you have a solid plan for identifying and eliminating vulnerabilities, your organization will be vulnerable to security threats.

In addition to the potential of lost data, organizations bound by data regulations like HIPAA can face steep fines for data breaches regardless of how they happen. Identifying vulnerabilities is critical to prevent these issues.

Whether you’d like a vulnerability assessment, penetration testing, or both, we can help. We can protect your organization’s systems with our IT vulnerability and penetration testing services. Schedule an onsite assessment today and protect your systems from cybersecurity threats.