Cyber security is one of the most important factors of security that a company should think about, especially if a lot of their company is conducted on computers. However, how can a company be sure that its technology is secure? There are two main ways that a company can test their cyber security to check that it is secure and this is through penetration (pen) testing and vulnerability testing. But what are the differences between the two? In this article, we’ll define pen testing and vulnerability and discuss their differences.

What is penetration testing?

A pen test is a cyber security measure consisting of a simulated cyber security attack that is designed to find holes and vulnerabilities in your computer system. This method is usually used to improve a web application firewall (WAF).

To complete a pen test, planning is first undertaken to understand the system and the potential issues to look for. Scanning tools are then used on the system to understand how the system responds to threats. The pen test will then try and gain access to your system, which simulates how an attacker might enter a WAF. These threats are then maintained to see how secure the system is.

Once the system has been tested for vulnerabilities, the system will be reconfigured to ensure security and then the system will be retested. This can be expensive, as it can take days or weeks to complete, depending on your requirements.

What is vulnerability testing?

Vulnerability testing, or vulnerability scans, check to see if there are any faults in various network devices. This includes: firewalls, routers, servers and applications. Unlike pen testing, vulnerability testing does not exploit any vulnerabilities that are found in the devices, it simply detects the issues so that the client can decide how they would like to improve their devices.

This type of test is usually conducted quarterly and should be completed every time new software is added to the system. Unlike pen testing, this type of system testing can be conducted by in-house staff if they have the right credentials.

Vulnerability testing begins with the gathering of information about the infrastructure and the application. The systems are then tested and vulnerabilities are discovered. Once a comprehensive list of vulnerabilities has been identified, they are reported back to the client. The client can then work with the security tester to define the steps that need to be taken to prevent cyber attacks.

Differences between pen testing and vulnerability testing

The main difference between pen and vulnerability testing is that pen testing is a more targeted form of testing. Pen testing checks specific factors and devices, whereas vulnerability testing usually tests a number of different factors and devices. Pen testing, unlike vulnerability testing, also exploits these weaknesses, because the hacker can work out how other hackers may enter the system and will use this information to improve cyber security.

Pen testing also includes a human factor, as pen testing requires the use of tools and there is no automation.

Although pen testing is more expensive than vulnerability testing, pen testing will provide more detailed information about vulnerabilities in the system.

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