In today's increasingly complex cyber risk landscape, businesses of any size are exposed to a sheer infinite number of ever-evolving cyber threats when it comes to protecting critical data assets, customer trust and business value.
Since increasing reliance on technology and cost effectiveness of internet-facing infrastructure are key drivers of both cyber risk and competitive advantage, it is no longer possible to avoid cyber threats altogether without falling behind.
Thus, future-focused businesses aspire to not only protect but also grow their value through risk management and resilience.
In layman's terms, the inevitable coexistence of risks and opportunities means you cannot run a successfully growing business that has no risks at all. Well, that is not necessarily so bad as it sounds. The winning strategy here is to navigate, manage and harness risks such that risk powers opportunity and performance. Just like the mysterious biomechanics of riding a bike.
To help your organization become more secure, vigilant and resilient, Cyberflare offers affordable cybersecurity management solutions, including penetration testing, vulnerability assessment and long-term cyber resilience building strategy.
Penetration Testing vs. Vulnerability Assessment
Vulnerability scan, vulnerability assessment, vulnerability management, risk assessment, penetration testing (pentest), resilience management etc. are often mixed up or incorrectly used interchangeably on many accounts.
Probably, the briefest way to tell differences among these cybersecurity buzzwords is to to talk essentially about the scope.
Vulnerability scan is just a component (usually automated) of the vulnerability assessment which in itself is a one-off engagement of a cybersecurity expert to identify, quantify, and prioritize vulnerabilities/security weaknesses/security holes in the given infrastructure.
So, vulnerability assessment is a technical process of various techniques, scans, analysis aimed at discovering as many vulnerabilities as possible, along with severity and remediation priority information to help the organization improve its system.
Vulnerability assessment has some overlaps with risk assessment in the sense that it also involves assigning quantifiable value and importance to assets and capabilities, evaluating potential threats and prioritizing the most serious weaknesses in the most valuable resources.
Given the vulnerabilities and potential weaknesses, a risk assessment focuses on the analysis of what can go wrong, how likely it is to happen, what the potential consequences are, and how tolerable the identified risk is. Obviously, it is higher level, broader picture of the organization or system to allow knowing, understanding and recognizing risks, and severity/criticality thereof.
At the end of the vulnerability assessment, the cybersecurity expert/consultant prepares a final detailed report with discovered potentially exploitable vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and other issues, identifies risks posed to the system/organization and provide actionable recommendations for remediation.
Vulnerability assessment and penetration testing are the most commonly mixed up, either intentionally or not.
In fact, businesses and sales people often refer to the vulnerability assessment as a penetration testing simply because it sounds cooler, is more affordable, less aggressive for the production systems etc., not because it is more suitable.
Penetration testing is rather offensive or aggressive in nature because it simulates a hacker attempting to get into a business system through the exploitation of vulnerabilities. So, we can the primary aspect that differentiates penetration testing is the live human element, intention and goal. Please check out the Penetration Testing section for more on this.
Unlike a one-off vulnerability assessment, vulnerability management means a comprehensive continuous program with no set start and end date with an aim of ideally guiding organizations to better manage their vulnerabilities in the long run. This involves regular tests, monitoring, assessment and long-term cybersecurity partnership. Higher in the hierarchy, cyber resilience is a more broader concept in the cybersecurity strategy with the target of sharpening the ability to understand and manage risks, prepare for, respond to and recover from a cyber attack.
When it comes to whether vulnerability or penetration testing is the more suitable, we must say that it depends on several factors. One way to look at it is breadth over depth vs depth over breadth.
Generally, vulnerability assessment is preferred when you just want a list of things that are wrong and your objective is to find and fix as many things as possible. So, that means your current security maturity is somewhere low to medium, you have been having a lot of recent development/changes going on and you want to tighten things up. Or simply, you haven't done any vulnerability assessment or penetration test for a quite while. In this situation, vulnerability assessment would provide specific things, many issues here and there to go through and implement as per the recommended remediation. (breadth over depth)
Penetration testing is preferred when your existing security maturity is already quite high, you probably have done other internal/external security assessments before, you have a stable system with certain defence mechanisms in place. In short, you have a higher-level of confidence in your system because pen test will test your posture once you have it where you want it. (depth over breadth)
The two tests work together to encourage optimal infrastructure security. Vulnerability scans are recommended more periodically, while penetration tests are a very thorough way to deeply examine your network security.
If required, we also offer a more affordable combo package customized to the specific needs of small to medium-sized organizations by focusing on the most required elements.
All our vulnerability assessment and penetration tests are performed by experienced cybersecurity specialists armed with doctoral level academic qualification (top level in Australian Qualifications Framework) and extensive industry experience in the IT, technology, development operations, testing and cybersecurity space.