Businesses need to regularly test their security postures in order to determine whether there are gaps in their cybersecurity programs and to ensure their defenses can meet the current threat landscape. We notice that many businesses want to take all the steps they can to ensure their security, but don’t completely understand the difference between a vulnerability assessment and a penetration test. Each test makes different discoveries about where threats lie and how to bolster security.

A vulnerability assessment may include penetration testing, but the two are different processes. Essentially, vulnerability assessments are designed to show where weaknesses are, whereas penetration tests are designed to show how cyber defenses hold up.  While penetration testing often zeroes in on a focused or specific form of attack, a vulnerability assessment scans on a larger scale to identify all vulnerabilities. 

Vulnerability Assessment
A vulnerability assessment searches for security weaknesses within a network infrastructure and reveals security issues within a network, such as outdated protocols, certificates, and missing patches. A vulnerability scan does not exploit these flaws. It provides the insight you need to shore up your defense and prescribes recommendations on how to fix the vulnerability. By assessing your system and its security, you can fix problems before they become a real threat.

A Vulnerability Scan is conducted within the security perimeter of a network. Penetration Testing meanwhile extends its examination outside of the mapped-out security perimeters.

Penetration Testing
A penetration test is a simulated cyberattack against a network to find exploitable security vulnerabilities. It helps businesses manage risk, protect clients from data breaches, and increase business continuity. It also helps companies in highly regulated industries like banking, service, and healthcare stay compliant. A penetration test simulates a cyberattack by attempting to compromise and extract sensitive data in a non-damaging way in order to gauge cybersecurity strength. This in-depth probe into the data security of your IT system works to identify lax security protocols and business processes that can be exploited by an outside source. Penetration testing is broader in scope than vulnerability testing since it discovers unknown and exploitable vulnerabilities.

Some regulated industries are legally required to conduct periodic penetration testing, per industry regulations. In these cases, penetration tests help organizations demonstrate compliance, avoid large heavy fines associated with non-compliance, and preserve your businesses’ reputation.

Using a combination of the two approaches, vulnerability assessments and penetration testing, organizations will have a more accurate and holistic view of their security posture. Gaining more insight into the security risk in your organization will manifest in more educated decisions, further enhancing the overall organizational security culture. 

Timing of Tests
Vulnerability scans are great for monthly or quarterly insights on your network security. Penetration tests take more time and cost more than just doing regular scans, but they are more effective at identifying significant problems that an organization should address and are typically performed on an annual or semi-annual basis. Most organization will choose to use both tests at coordinated intervals to determine the strength of their cybersecurity postures.

How to Get Started
Using proactive, authorized tests the experts at ACE IT Solutions can evaluate the security of your IT infrastructure and identify any risks posed by specific vulnerabilities or flawed processes. We provide skilled consultants who draw from extensive experience manual investigation techniques and advanced tools to identify and exploit vulnerabilities. We facilitate consistent assessment, design, deployment, management, support and education services to enhance your return on investment.

ACE IT Solutions’ penetration tests and security assessments are designed to help you
understand the security requirements of your specific industry, and to design and implement a
solution using best practices that encompasses your unique security needs. Contact us at 646.558.5575 or info@aceits.net to schedule a network evaluation. We can help you determine which approach is best for your specific business.

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