Risk Analysis, Vulnerability Assessment or Penetration Testing: Which is Best for Your Business?

Written by  //  January 6, 2016  //  Business  //  Comments Off on Risk Analysis, Vulnerability Assessment or Penetration Testing: Which is Best for Your Business?

There two types of tests are often confused with one another. What should you know about vulnerability testing and penetration testing?

Vulnerability Testing And Risk Analysis

These tests are often used interchangeably, but they are actually two different testing methodologies. Vulnerability testing is an assessment of your security vulnerabilities. A technician will attempt to quantify the risks on your server of website, and then provide the appropriate mitigation protocols required to eliminate the risk or reduce it to an acceptable level.

A vulnerability test usually follows a predictable step-by-step process:

  • First, a technician will catalogue your company’s assets and resources.
  • Next, he or she will assign quantifiable value and importance to all assets and resources – this helps place a measurable priority on all processes.
  • The tech then identifies the security vulnerabilities or potential threats to each resource.
  • Finally, the tech works to mitigate or eliminate the most serious vulnerabilities to protect your company’s most valuable resources. In some cases, it may not be possible to protect everything.

A risk analysis is similar to vulnerability testing, but with some important differences. A risk analysis doesn’t require any scanning tools, for example. It analyses a specific vulnerability that may or may not be known, and attempts to ascertain the risk.

The risk may be strictly financial, but it may also be reputational, business continuity, or regulatory risk.

Many factors go into performing a risk analysis, including assets, vulnerability, threat and impact to your company. The analyst spends considerable time looking at the vulnerable server and the type of data it stores.

A server on an internal network without any outside connectivity, which stores no data, but still has vulnerability to an attack has a different risk profile than a customer-facing web server storing credit card data, which is vulnerable to the same attack.

A simple vulnerability scan won’t “see” the difference between these two types of threats. But, a risk analysis and assessment will.

The analysis, when completed, will have a final risk rating, along with ways to control that risk. Business managers can then take the risk statement and mitigating controls and decide whether or not they want to implement them. If you are looking for further information, then head over to the Synack company website as they answer more questions about vulnerability management there.

Penetration Testing

Penetration testing is very different from vulnerability scanning. In vulnerability scanning, technicians are merely looking for the threat. With penetration testing, a technician is simulating an attack. In other words, with a vulnerability scan, you’re looking at the potential threat.

With penetration testing, you’re actually testing the vulnerability of your systems.

Technicians will simulate an internal and external attack in an attempt to breach your information security systems. Depending on the scope of the pentest operation, the test can expand beyond the network and include various social engineering attacks or even physical security tests.

A basic technological attack tests your system’s ability to resist a technology-based attack. In other words, the security analyst will attempt to break into your system using a variety of hardware or software tools.

These may be custom hardware and software solution or just software-driven solutions. A social engineering program, however, bypasses technological attacks and tries to gain access to your system using social engineering – psychological attacks on your employees and other staff members or independent contractors.

For example, a security analyst might attempt to walk in through the front door, gain access directly to the servers, and then initiate an attack once inside your company’s perimeter. He may pose as a technician, cleaning staff, or even middle management or a new employee.

He will ask employees for access to the premises, passwords, or make fake deliveries to your office to try to gain access.

Many times, a company is unprepared for this type of attack, because technological defences are near-useless. Physical attacks work much the same way. The security analyst will try to physically break into your server or computer systems, first by gaining physical access to them.

Often, once a person is inside of a company or office building, it’s much easier to compromise the security systems in place, which tend to be focused on keeping people out, rather than protecting from internal threats.

Read more on penetration testing to learn about the various types of pen tests which can be performed at your company.

Which Is Best For Your Company?

The type of pen testing that’s best for your company depends a lot on what you need to prove. If you are looking to tighten security, you might want to start with a vulnerability test. If you know you have weak spots, or you want to actually test your security system, choose a penetration test.

Jayden Morley works within an IT team for a large corporation. A writer for many business and IT related websites, he enjoys sharing his knowledge with a wider audience online.

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