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Difference on vulnerability scanning & penetration testing

Both vulnerability scanning and penetration testing are vital parts of a network's maintenance and security.

Both of these methods are important for making sure that a system continues to operate smoothly and without any glitches, and both of these methods play a major role in making sure that the network doesn't get infected with incoming viruses and problems.

However, even though they seem alike, there are actually a number of major differences between vulnerability scanning and penetration testing.

In the following few paragraphs, these differences have been highlighted in clear detail so that readers can understand easily what both of these processes are mainly about.

Vulnerability scanning explained

Vulnerability scanning is basically an automatic process that is carried out in order to figure out the different flaws that might be present in a system.

There are a host of different types of vulnerability scanners that are created, each of which target a certain section of a network.

Using a database of known flaws, the vulnerability scanner then tries to determine any flaws that might be present within the system.

The scanners try to match the flaws that occur with the ones that are already present within the database, and if any are found, they are recorded and a detailed report of the findings is created at the end which allows a company to figure out where it needs strengthening.

No remote attacks are carried out, and vulnerability scanning basically only highlights any flaws that might be present within the security system of the network.

However, vulnerability scanning isn't exactly fool proof.

For starters, vulnerability scanning is based solely upon a database of known flows.

This means that any new flaws that might occur are completely ignored by the vulnerability scanner, and can be exploited later on by hackers.

However, in order to highlight existing flaws within the system, vulnerability scanning plays a major role. 

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Penetration testing

Penetration testing is quite different from vulnerability scanning.

Perhaps the major difference between vulnerability scanning and penetration testing is the fact that in the latter, actual penetration is carried out.

A penetration tester would make use of all the different worms or viruses that are available in his arsenal and try to get them to bypass the security of a company.

This helps the company in order to figure out whether its defenses are strong enough or not.

Penetration testing is usually done by a third party company that is hired by the company itself, and usually only lasts for a few weeks or at max, a few months.

At the end of the penetration testing, a number of results are revealed, such as the types of malicious software programs that can gain access to the company's internal databases, as well as which of the defenses are able to hold and which of the defenses gave way.

This effectively allows the company to secure its servers and networks and create a more robust defensive system for its network.