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Comparison: Vulnerability Assessment vs Penetration Testing

With organisations’ increased reliance on infocomm technology in their pursuit for competitive advantage, keeping the IT infrastructure safe should be one of the top priorities in organisations. Leaving security vulnerabilities unresolved and open for hackers to exploit can lead to severe monetary and reputation loss. Depending on the organisation’s intent – whether it is to find out the security vulnerabilities present in IT systems or to determine the security resiliency of the application, there are two approaches that organisations may adopt. Vulnerability Assessment is a non-intrusive approach that serves to produce a prioritised list of security vulnerabilities. A combination of automated and manual scan may be performed on the organisation’s IT systems or network, to identify flaws that may be exploited during an attack. The systematic approach of identifying, quantifying, and ranking security vulnerabilities enables organisation to select critical vulnerabilities to resolve based on their available resources. Without such assessments, there is a risk that IT infrastructure are not sufficiently secured. It is recommended that organisations should perform a vulnerability assessment on their IT infrastructure on a quarterly basis, and as well as to assess their applications on a yearly basis. Penetration Testing on the other hand, uses an intrusive approach to discover security weaknesses in the organisation’s IT infrastructure and applications. Penetration testers would attempt to exploit identified security weaknesses to gain privileged access into the IT infrastructure and applications. Such approach emulates a real attack, and would determine the robustness of the organisation’s IT infrastructure in protecting sensitive information. The difference between vulnerability assessment and penetration testing is that the former helps to discover the security loopholes present in organisation’s...
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