Vulnerability scanning and penetration testing differences and efficacies

Vulnerability scanning and penetration testing are two essential PCI DSS verified methods of cyber security testing processes, which are not to be confused with each other.

With the increasingly pervasive threat of security breaches sprouting everywhere, companies cannot afford to waste resources on inefficient security measures.

For better understanding, one must know the security needs and intelligent solutions.

Vulnerability scanning

Vulnerability Scans are automated scans done on the necessary technology infrastructure of a company by its IT team or third-party security service provider to find exploitable open ends.

The scan detects and classifies information by referring to a database enlisting commonly known flaws. Such flaws include coding bugs, packet construction anomalies, default configurations, and other potential paths to sensitive data.

A conclusive report is then generated using the results of the scan. The severity level is assigned to each case, and the effectiveness of solutions for remediation is predicted.

Types of vulnerability scanning

Wireless assessment

Apart from various environmental and architectural variables, areas like- distributed access points, wireless security controls, and authentication functions fall under objects of evaluation.

Build assessment

Build assessment is run to analyze the build of the software and detect performance bugs. It mitigates the chances of future build-up in a server caused by persistent bugs.

Web application assessment

This focuses on front-end vulnerabilities through dynamic and static analysis run on the executing code of the application.

Darabase assessment

It is an evaluation process for identifying weaknesses in databases like Microsoft SQL, Oracle, MySQL, Postgres, and MongoDB. Common yet critical vulnerabilities in database security can lead to a compromised system. These can be prevented by pinpointing the issues through a database assessment scan.

Host-based assessment

This ensures that any organization insider cannot exploit the system network. This is also effective in identifying infiltrators and any suspicious behaviors.

Secure configuration assessment

This covers the evaluation of a system’s Firewall (WAF), DLP security matrix, and configurational setup of VPNs, NAC, Routers, servers, and mainframes. Missing security patches are pointed out in the overall access control.

Mobile application assessment

Vulnerability scanning for mobile applications is one great way to ensure the unhindered performance of mobile apps. Scans are run on the APIs of mobile apps to prevent attacks, password storage misuse, and session management issues.

This also involves static and dynamic testing on the mobile’s security posture. It assesses privacy concerns and questionable application behaviors.

Mobile applications across different OSs are prone to being the gateway of entrance for spyware, malware, and unauthorized access to device data. Mobile application vulnerability scanning shows that such attacks can be prevented by helping enhance operational efficiency, implementing actionable security measures, and addressing mandatory compliance requirements.

Penetration testing

Penetration testing is ethical hacking. It imitates the trajectory of a real-time hacking scenario, which is a required method of securing all ends of web applications, networks, and servers. A simulated and controlled attack is organized on the WAF of an organization to challenge and test its security posture.

Penetration testers attempt to breach the system, using their knowledge to navigate all potential exploitable points. This comprehensive attack on the scenario gives in-depth information and customized test cases—these extensive insights about the security status help optimize and fine-tune security policies.

Penetration testing types

External penetration testing

In this method, penetration testers try to find weak ends on the digitally visible platforms: the front ends of web applications, websites, email, and domain names. Tests are done on the organization’s perimeter systems, which can be reached directly through the internet.

Internal penetration testing

Penetration testers are given access to the backend of the organization’s server from where they perform phishing attacks as malicious insiders alongside running other exploitations. The goal is to see if an actual attacker can gain a strong foothold and stay undetected to cause long-term and persistent damage.

Blind testing

In this case, testers see how much can be achieved by any hacker who only has the name of the target organization. Enterprises lacking integral security structure fall prey to such hackers. Blind penetration testing reveals all such inefficiencies.

Double blind testing

Double-blind testing is done without much prior notice. It evaluates how a company’s cyber security team and policies respond to and handle a real-time or zero-day attack.

Targeted testing

Third-party tester and company security personnel work together on an open network to monitor test cases and compare results.

Web applications penetration testing

Web application penetration testing is an efficient way of protecting and updating security measures.

After the scope and goals of test settings are finalized, a requisite scan is done through which testers gain insightful intelligence of the testing premise. Static analysis is done by inspecting the code, followed by dynamic analysis during code execution.

Cross-site scripting, SQL injection, and other methods are used to try and create pervasive traffic in the internal network and jam servers; backdoor attacks are performed, and all possible ways are used to try and escalate privileges, steal sensitive data, and intercept traffic.

It is seen whether an attacker can stay inside the system for a prolonged period and pose an advanced persistent threat.

Finally, an exhaustive report is made, and all bugs are fixed to seal all loose ends.

Comparison between vulnerability scanning and penetration testing

SCOPE It covers a large area to identify potential risk factors before hackers can get to it. Investigates if any breach has occurred, and provides future security measures.
Automation Automated and requires no human resources. Can be run for short or long periods. Automated to some extent. Tester intervention is also required.
Difficulty Mostly automated usage. Doesn’t require much skill. A high skill set is required. The third-party service provider is the best fitting to hire.
Advantages Affordable precautionary measures. Extensive, insightful measures were taken for variable security factors, and personalized solutions were provided.

How headspin can be the perfect fit for customer’s security requirements

Here at HeadSpin, the customer’s security needs are met by implementing faster and more efficient ways of testing.

Whether a mobile app or enterprise testing, their array of security solutions and services cater to it.

Headspin’s unique ideation and execution through reliable automated mobile app testing platforms ensure certainty.

Knowing the discussed differences between vulnerability scanning and penetration testing is vital in deciding which one to choose for the best security assurance.