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The key difference between penetration testing and vulnerability scanning

Both options have pros and cons that should be considered while planning the testing process.

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Image: Unsplash

Operational security, or so-called it soc, includes implementing solutions, tracking changes, properly maintaining systems, meeting required standards, and adhering to security practices and objectives. 

A company won’t benefit from developing a strong password policy if no one enforces it and users use whatever passwords they want.

It’s like switching to a healthy lifestyle. If you hit the gym for a week and eat donuts for the rest of the year, you cannot expect to stay in shape. 

Security requires discipline, an established regimen, and due diligence.

Here we’ll discuss penetration testing vs vulnerability scanning and their usage by it soc for cyber protection.

Basic principles and benefits of the pentesting

Pentesting services simulate attacks on networks according to the task of their owner, a senior executive.

While making it, the tester uses a set of procedures and tools designed to test and attempt to bypass system defenses. 

Its main goal is to evaluate a company’s resistance level to an attack and identify any weaknesses in its environment.

Companies need to independently evaluate the effectiveness of their security tools, and not just trust the promises of suppliers.

Good computer security is based on facts, not just an idea of ​​how things should work. This method mimics the same techniques used by real attackers.

Attackers can be smart and inventive in their approaches. So testing should also use the latest hacking techniques and a solid methodology for conducting it. 

During testing, you should analyze each computer in the environment. You shouldn’t expect an attacker to scan only one computer and upon finding no vulnerabilities in it, choose another company.

Penetration testing can check all the points that real hackers can use to access sensitive and valuable data, for example:

  • web and DNS servers;
  • settings of the routers;
  • the possibility of reaching some critical data;
  • systems for remote access, open ports, etc. 

Some tests can hurt the activity of systems, and even disable them. That is why the test dates must be agreed upon in advance.

The process should not significantly impact the company’s performance. And the company’s personnel should be ready, if necessary, to quickly restore the operation of the systems.

According to the results of pentesting, a report describing the identified problems, the degree of their criticality, and recommendations for their correction should be drawn up.

Basic principles and benefits of scanning for vulnerabilities

best repair antivirus software for computer pc
Image: PCMag

Conducting manual or automated (or better, a combination of them) vulnerability scanning requires the company to have employees (or conclude an agreement with consultants) with extensive experience in security, as well as a high level of trust. 

Even the best-automated vulnerability scanning tool produces results that may be misinterpreted (false positive), or the vulnerabilities identified may not matter to your environment or be compensated for by various protective measures.

On the other hand, two separate vulnerabilities can be found in the network, which are not significant in themselves but taken together, they are important.

In addition, of course, an automated tool can miss individual vulnerabilities, such as a little-known element that’s important to your environment.

The objectives of such an assessment are to:

  1. Assess the true state of the environment’s security.
  2. Identify as many vulnerabilities as possible, and assess and prioritize each one.

Generally, the website vulnerability scanner provides the following features:

  • Identification of active systems in the network.
  • Identification of active vulnerable services (ports) on found systems.
  • Identification of applications running on them and analysis of banners.
  • Identification of OS installed on them.
  • Identification of vulnerabilities associated with detected OS and apps.
  • Detection of incorrect settings.
  • Testing for compliance with application usage policies and security policies.
  • Preparing the basis for pentesting conducting.

The team has to check how systems respond to certain actions and attacks to learn not only about the presence of known vulnerabilities (outdated version of the service, account without a password), but also about the possibility of unauthorized use of certain elements of the environment (SQL injection, buffer overflow, exploitation of architectural flaws systems (for example, in social engineering attacks).

Before deciding on the scope of testing, the tester should explain the possible consequences of testing.

Some of the tests can disable vulnerable systems; testing may adversely affect the performance of systems due to additional load during their testing.

In addition, management must understand that test results are only a snapshot. Since the environment is constantly changing, new vulnerabilities can appear at any time.

Management should also be aware that various assessment options are available, each identifying different types of vulnerabilities in the environment, but each has its limitations.

Penetration testing vs. vulnerability scanning. What is the main difference?

Bitdefender
Image: Bitdefender

The choice of pen test vs vulnerability scan depends on the company, its security goals, and the goals of its management.

Both options have pros and cons that should be considered while planning the testing process.

Some large companies routinely perform pentesting on their environment, using various tools, or scanning devices that continuously analyze the company’s network, automatically identifying new vulnerabilities in it.

Other companies are turning to service providers to find out vulnerabilities and conduct pentesting to get a more objective view of the security of their environment.

It’s worth utilizing both methods at different stages and at different times.

At last, the more you know about the existing protection of your organization and its reliability, the more you can do to prevent hacker attacks and save your time, money, and reputation. 

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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