If you run a business and are curious about what pen testing vs vulnerability scanning is, then this is the article for you. Both services are useful and they each come with their own set of pros and cons. In this article, we’ll explore what each service is and which one is right for you and your business needs. A Penetration Test, or commonly referred to as a Pen Test is when a third party tries to get physical access to your building and/or network. They try to get past security, employees, and whatever other security measures you have in place preventing intrusion. Once they have breached the perimeter, they then go after your network and data. If they are able to access critical data, then they have successfully penetrated your business. Vulnerability scanning is a little less intense. A third party will access your vulnerabilities by doing very passive scans of your network. They are checking for known security flaws that your business may be exposed to, but don’t actually do anything to defend or attack. They just report what they find and make a recommendation about what you should to protect yourself. So, now that you know what the difference is between the two methods, which one do you need for your business?
Pen testing is an active test. There are real people involved and while the attack is performed in a control manner, there is still a chance that something might go wrong. There is a small chance that data can be lost or damaged since the pen tester is actively trying to actually break into the system. The vulnerability scan, since it is typically a passive thing has much less risk. But the vulnerability scan is more of a theoretical test. Yes, it’s going to find real ports that are open, but unless you take action to close up your vulnerabilities, they are just going to be documented on paper. The same can be said about the pen test. The Pen test isn’t supposed to actually take down your network or steal your data. It’s just supposed to show you how someone could potentially do it. But like the vulnerability assessment, unless you actually take action to protect yourself, the white hat hacker can’t actually save or protect your data.
So, which test is right for you? If you are confident in the security you have in place, I would recommend you go with a full pen test. They say ignorance is bliss and there’s no better way to test out your shiny new security policy than having someone actively try to break it. An attacker isn’t going to be asking for permission when they attempt to break in and steal your data, so a pen tester is as close as you are going to get to a real world simulation. With that said, this is a real world simulation which means things can go wrong. Have a backup plan for your data and network and then try to poke holes. If you aren’t quite there yet with your network and security infrastructure, then I’d recommend you get your feet wet and go for a vulnerability assessment. It will paint a picture of where you have holes and give you a few good critical next steps you can take to improve your security.