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Pentest x Vulnerability Assessment: know the differences

Pentest and Vulnerability Assessments are two frequently used and important designations in the field of cybersecurity and often confused or considered to have the same meaning.


Vulnerability Assessment is the process of identifying weaknesses in a system or application. This is usually done using automated tools that scan the system for known vulnerabilities. Vulnerability assessment provides an overview of areas that need to be fixed, but does not provide concrete proof that a specific threat can be exploited.


Penetration Testing, on the other hand, is a more proactive, simulated approach to testing a system's security. A pentester (person who performs the intrusion test) simulates a real threat, trying to exploit the vulnerabilities identified in the vulnerability assessment. The goal is to determine whether a real attacker would be able to break into the system and, if so, what the consequences would be. In addition, a pentest provides a detailed understanding of the security risk and helps prioritize needed fixes.


To make it clearer, we have the following table:

​PENTEST

VULNERABILITY ASSESSMENT

Definition

A cybersecurity technique that seeks to detect weaknesses in systems or applications by simulating malicious threats before an attacker exploits them.

​Process that consists of investigating weaknesses in systems and applications without the need for an invasion simulation and carried out in an automated way.

Execution

Performed automatically as well as manually.

​It is done in a completely automated way and some manual validations.

Objectives

​It focuses on exploiting vulnerabilities and detecting as much information as possible, verifying that they are genuine and how they can be countered.

It aims to identify a greater number of exposed vulnerabilities in the environment and provide recommendations for corrections.

Price

$$

$

Duration of Tests

About 2 weeks per asset to be tested.

About 1 week.

In short, Vulnerability Assessment is a set of tools to identify weaknesses, while Pentest is an approach to test the effectiveness of security measures and assess the real security risk. Both disciplines are important to ensure the security of a system or application and it is recommended to use them together. Both should be integrated into a well-planned cybersecurity strategy and help protect systems and applications.


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