Understanding Vulnerability Assessments and Penetration Testing

Often used interchangeably, vulnerability assessment and penetration test cause confusion but solve different problems. Understanding which test to undergo requires knowing what you need, the right questions to ask, and which test coincides with those answers. Learn how to select the right method.

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What's Included

Security Testing 101

Understand the key differences between a vulnerability assessment and penetration test including use cases for each test and the methodology they follow.

Why Undergo a Security Test

Learn the primary goal behind the use of a vulnerability assessment and penetration test in order for you to determine what is the right choice for your organization.

Expected Outcomes

Uncover the outcomes and deliverables you should expect to receive upon the completion of a vulnerability assessment or a penetration test.

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Key Facts

  • A vulnerability assessment is intended to be a comprehensive evaluation of the security of your vital infrastructure, endpoints, and IT assets. It gives insight into system weaknesses and recommends the appropriate remediation procedures to either eliminate the issue or reduce the weakness to an acceptable level of risk.
  • Vulnerability assessments often provide the most value when used by organizations that do not have an in-house security team. An organization may recognize issues within its environment but is in need of outside technical expertise to identify and address the weaknesses.
  • A vulnerability assessment’s core deliverables should include a technical report highlighting discovered vulnerabilities, their risk ranking, and recommended remediation activities.
  • A second primary deliverable should be a comprehensive list of the identified vulnerabilities in a matrix format. The document can be used by the organization to facilitate tracking and remediation of vulnerabilities discovered in the assessment.
  • A penetration test attempts to simulate the actions of an external or internal attacker who is trying to breach the information security of an organization. The person performing the test uses a combination of tools and techniques and attempts to bypass the existing security controls of the target organization.

Most organizations will achieve the highest return on investment by first conducting a vulnerability assessment to identify the current population of security issues within its environment. Once these matters have been remediated by the organization and the maturity level of security operations has increased, a penetration test can ensure the new environment is operating as expected.

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