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16 Nov 2021

Vulnerability Scanning VS Pen Testing: What’s the difference?

Vulnerability scanning and penetration testing both have their place in the cyber security arsenal and are pivotal to protecting a business’ IT environment from attackers. But it’s fairly common for people to confuse the two and assume that they can be similar, in fact they couldn’t be more different! So what are the differences?


Vulnerability scanning

Vulnerability scanning involves using automated tools to uncover potential vulnerabilities that can be used to exploit your network. It scans through network devices like, firewalls, switches, routers and applications. Whilst this method involves identifying known vulnerabilities, it doesn’t exploit them and is much wider in scope compared to penetration testing.

But a more full proof method of remediating vulnerabilities is to find a provider that offers a comprehensive Vulnerability Management program. This ensures that potential vulnerabilities are being found regularly and the process is ongoing, opposed to a vulnerability scan which is one off.


Penetration testing

A penetration test essentially involves someone infiltrating your network and exploit weaknesses that are sitting in your systems. A Cyber Analyst will use a set of tools to carry this out and test the cyber defences of your business, and typically it’s pretty targeted.


3 key differences between vulnerability scanning and penetration testing

  1. Penetration testing exploits vulnerabilities opposed to a vulnerability scan that uncovers potential vulnerabilities
  2. A vulnerability scan typically covers all assets within a business, but a penetration test is targeted and runs through only fundamental assets.
  3. Vulnerability scans are generally low in cost and can be done often. Penetration tests can be costly in comparison and isn’t typically carried out more than once or twice a year (depending on the business).


Vulnerability scans also have a low unit cost and can be conducted quite often, whereas penetration tests are costly and are typically conducted once per year, depending on the business.

Although both of these solutions are different, businesses looking to improve their security posture should be looking to use both solutions. Both combined can help you as a business too to identity weaknesses and vulnerabilities from the get-go and figure out appropriate solutions to remediate the issues.

Looking to learn more on vulnerability scanning and penetration testing? Our cyber security experts can guide you through both services. Contact our team today.


By OryxAlign