What is the Main Difference Between Vulnerability Scanning and Penetration Testing

Difference Between Vulnerability Scanning and Penetration Testing

Gradually, a security audit is becoming a common procedure for those who take care of the aspect of safety in their business. Recent examples of cyber attacks that took place in 2018 that brought a lot of losses for British Airways and Marriott persuaded the world of business that security audit should be included in the planning of budget and activities. The reason is that losing money because of white hat hackers is less effective and pleasant than protecting the information system in advance. At the same time, a lot of procedures that are suggested by the sphere of white hat hacking still remain rather mysterious for those who want to order a security audit.

To select the right service, it is necessary to have at least a general idea about the difference between them. The main ones suggested to customers are vulnerability scanning and vulnerability penetration testing, and they will be compared to understand which one is the most preferable.

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What is vulnerability scanning?

It is a security procedure that is conducted by a special tool automatically. This process can be applied to a whole information system, program application, or network. The vulnerability scanner is aimed to check if the system has any vulnerabilities to attacks of black hat hackers and information can be stolen from an organization or company.

This testing is often conducted by a specific software that was created specifically for the purpose of conducting the assessment. The most common examples of the software for vulnerability testing are Nessus and OpenVas that are used by professional companies or white hat hackers to analyze how a single IP address or several addresses that belong to business are protected and what can be potentially done by black hat hackers. If some Apache web server patches are missed, the software will inform and provide some options regarding the most effective resolution of the problem. What is also rather important about this software, it gives a full report related to the system or application vulnerabilities and it provides an opportunity to see the primal priorities. If one vulnerability is more critical than the other ones, there will be a chance to trace them and to pay attention to them before the other ones. This procedure is conducted automatically, but it requires a skillful system administrator to control the process, analyze and interpret the results, and explain the final reports to the managers and business owners.

The main aim of this automatic process is to find the so-called open doors in the stable and protected information system of some companies. Vulnerability scan helps to understand where these doors are located and which ones are the first to close not to allow the black hat hackers to receive access to the company data and critical information. At the same time, the effectiveness of the process depends not only on the applied software but also on the specialist who works with it and able to find the best approach for every specific situation.


What is vulnerability scanning?


What is penetration testing?

This process might follow the vulnerability scanning, and it is a further assessment conducted manually by the specialists who are usually called security engineers, white hat hackers, or ethical hackers. They do not simply apply software and interpret the results, they look for the vulnerabilities in their own way and might even utilize unusual methods. Of course, black hat hackers might use their own software that automatically penetrates into the system, but often they conduct it manually using rather an unusual approach and methods. Thus, these attacks should be analyzed and prevented by white hat hackers and their own methods.

Also, they help to understand the essence of the problem related to any vulnerability that was demonstrated by the report provided after vulnerability scanning conducted by means of special software. For instance, the information that the website of a company is vulnerable to Heartbleed, but the real seriousness of this situation and the further actions remains unclear for the business owners. In some cases, there might be no reason to worry, but there are also other situations in which it might imply the upcoming attack or its attempts. A specialist who conducts penetration testing will be able to understand a real threat and to suggest the most effective decisions.

What is also important, a white hat hacker will actually try to conduct a cyber attack on a system or website to understand its level of protection and vulnerabilities in the same way as if black hat hackers did it. The main difference is the purpose and control over this process. A business owner will exactly know how much are the data protected and what needs to be changed at the nearest time. At the same time, nothing will be lost or stolen from a database.


What is penetration testing?


Penetration Testing VS Vulnerability Scanning

To understand the difference between the processes and to choose the most appropriate solution, it is possible to compare these options to a common health check. By the way, it should be conducted on a regular basis as well as security audits in the company, but people often ignore this necessity referring to a lack of money, time, and opportunities to invite a specialist. At the same time, we all can imagine the consequences.

The same situation is in the sphere of cybersecurity. If you have done a hematologic study and received a result, you might notice that some indicants are different from the desired ones, for instance, your level of leukocytes is lower. Thus, you have a common idea of the problem, but it gives a little notion without a more careful examination that can be done only by a doctor. From one point of view, vulnerability testing is prompter, cheaper, and does not require so many resources. From the other point of view, it gives a very general picture of the real situation. In contrast, penetration testing needs more money and time, but it will point accurately the real issues and risks that might be missed in case of utilizing only the common analysis.

Penetration Testing VS Vulnerability Scanning



Each entrepreneur and business owner makes a decision about a type of security audit based on business needs and specificities. In this regard, it’s extremely important to understand the Main Difference Between Vulnerability Scanning and Penetration Testing to make informed and right decisions related to a company’s cybersecurity. At the same time, finding a specialist who will be able to conduct smart penetration testing and attack the system from a perspective of a black hat hacker is the most preferable option in the aspect of protecting business websites, bank accounts, applications, and client information from a real cyber attack the results of which can turn into a genuine catastrophe for any business.

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