Penetration Testing vs Vulnerability Scanning

Penetration Testing vs Vulnerability Scanning

Penetration Testing vs Vulnerability Scanning

A penetration test enables organizations to identify vulnerabilities in their applications, infrastructures, and products. That way issues can be remedied before they are exploited to compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and/or availability of data. Penetration tests must be driven by talented offensive security experts who are familiar with current techniques, tactics and procedures used by today’s real-world threat actors.   

Penetration Testing vs. Vulnerability Scanning 

Security testing comes in a few different forms. Penetration tests are commonly confused with vulnerability scans, which are a very different test that provide inferior results by comparison. 

Vulnerability scanning is an automated process in which programs automatically test an organization’s infrastructure for potentially exploitable vulnerabilities. This testing is based on a database of known vulnerabilities and common attacks (such as SQL injection or missing patches). 

Vulnerability scanning only provides a surface-level look at an organization’s security. Scanners will output a report listing their findings many of which will be false positives. Perhaps more importantly, scanners also produce false negatives where they fail identify important vulnerabilities. The organization will need to determine  false positives and what false negatives may exist before developing a remediation plan.

A penetration test gives a cyber security professional permission launch attacks against your organization in a safe and controlled manner. The objective is to identify vulnerabilities in software, hardware, applications, networks, and proprietary technologies. Qualified testers have the same skills and tools as real cyber threat actors. This enables them to discover vulnerabilities that pose real risk to an organization. From there they can be remediated before they are exploited to compromise the confidentiality, integrity and/or availability of data.  

Advantages of Penetration Testing 

In a penetration testing engagement, a company’s systems are evaluated by a team of cyber security experts.  This provides numerous advantages compared to other forms of security testing, including: 

  • Targeted Scope:

    Automated scanners typically scan all IP addresses in a range, whether or not they are actively used. Basically, companies are paying to test IP addresses that may not even be live. With penetration tests, when scoped properly, customers only pay for systems that are live and connectable. (Penetration testing vendors who price based on number of IP addresses are likely performing vulnerability scanning in lieu of genuine penetration testing). 

  • Deeper Inspection:

    Automatic scanning provides a skin-deep assessment of an organization’s security, identifying vulnerabilities, sometimes exploiting them, and sometimes causing services to fail in the process. Penetration testers will exploit vulnerabilities to identify attack paths that cyber threat actors could follow to plant malware or steal sensitive data. Understanding these paths is critically important for building effective defenses. 

  • Intelligent Targeting:

    Vulnerability scanners will treat all of an organization’s systems equally. Penetration testers understand the relative importance and value of various systems and can target their assessments accordingly. Moreover, penetration testers can chain (combine) vulnerabilities to drastically increase their level of risk and gain access that might otherwise not be attainable through individual exploitation.  

  • Verified Results:

    Automated scanners identify where vulnerabilities may exist in a system but don’t always exploit these vulnerabilities to verify that they pose a real risk to the organization. Penetration testers exploit the vulnerabilities that they find to verify the existence of the vulnerability and the risk that it poses to the company. Penetration testers also produce no false positives and very few false negatives by comparison. 

  • Careful Verification:

    Vulnerability scanners can blindly exploit vulnerabilities to verify their existence which may result in system crashes, data loss, and other damages. Penetration testers have knowledge/experience to safely exploit vulnerabilities, or if risk is high, determine if exploitation should even be attempted.  

  • Security Expertise:

    Vulnerability scanners are automated computer programs, and their operator doesn’t need to know much about security to use them or interpret the results for a customer. Penetration testers walk clients through exploitation details/attack paths they followed and provide actionable insights on how to mitigate security gaps. 


Penetration Testing with Netragard 

With penetration testing, you get a first-hand view of how an attacker would target your organization’s systems. The return on investment of a penetration test is equal to the cost in damages of a single successful data breach that could have otherwise been prevented. Penetration testing could be the most important thing you do to help bolster defenses and safeguard against attacks/data breaches. How vulnerable are you? 

Netragard’s team of security experts applies over 15 years of vulnerability research and exploit development practices to its penetration testing services. This distinctive approach enables us to discover known and novel vulnerabilities and produce efficient/effective methods of remediation for our customers. We tailor our services to meet or exceed the unique requirements of each customer to ensure we deliver the best possible quality of service.     

How secure are your organization’s systems and data?  Reach out today! 

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Karen Huggins

Chief Financial, HR and Admin Officer
Karen joined the Netragard team in 2017 and oversees Netragard’s financial, human resources as well as administration functions. She also provides project management support to the operations and overall strategy of Netragard.
Prior to joining Netragard, she worked at RBC Investor Services Bank in Luxembourg in the role of Financial Advisor to the Global CIO of Investor Services, as well as several years managing the Financial Risk team to develop and implement new processes in line with regulatory requirements around their supplier services/cost and to minimize the residual risk to the organization.
With over 20 years of experience in finance with global organizations, she brings new perspective that will help the organization become more efficient as a team. She received her Bachelor of Finance from The Florida State University in the US and her Master of Business Administration at ESSEC Business School in Paris, France.

Philippe Caturegli

Chief Hacking Officer
Philippe has over 20 years of experience in information security. Prior to joining Netragard, Philippe was a Senior Manager within the Information & Technology Risk practice at Deloitte Luxembourg where he led a team in charge of Security & Privacy engagements.

Philippe has over 10 years of experience in the banking and financial sector that includes security assessment of large and complex infrastructures and penetration testing of data & voice networks, operating systems, middleware and web applications in Europe, US and Middle East.

Previously, Philippe held roles within the information system security department of a global pharmaceutical company in London. While working with a heterogeneous network of over 100,000 users across the world and strict regulatory requirements, Philippe gained hands-on experience with various security technologies (VPN, Network and Application Firewalls, IDS, IPS, Host Intrusion Prevention, etc.)

Philippe actively participates in the Information Security community. He has discovered and published several security vulnerabilities in leading products such as Cisco, Symantec and Hewlett-Packard.

He is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH), PCI Qualified Security Assessors (PCI-QSA), OSSTMM Professional Security Analyst (OPSA), OSSTMM Professional Security Tester (OPST), Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC)and Associate Member of the Business Continuity Institute (AMBCI).

Adriel Desautels

Chief Technology Officer
Adriel T. Desautels, has over 20 years of professional experience in information security. In 1998, Adriel founded Secure Network Operations, Inc. which was home to the SNOsoft Research Team. SNOsoft gained worldwide recognition for its vulnerability research work which played a pivotal role in helping to establish today’s best practices for responsible disclosure. While running SNOsoft, Adriel created the zeroday Exploit Acquisition Program (“EAP”), which was transferred to, and continued to operate under Netragard.
In 2006, Adriel founded Netragard on the premise of delivering high-quality Realistic Threat Penetration Testing services, known today as Red Teaming. Adriel continues to act as a primary architect behind Netragard’s services, created and manages Netragard’s 0-day Exploit Acquisition Program and continues to be an advocate for ethical 0-day research, use and sales.
Adriel is frequently interviewed as a subject matter expert by media outlets that include, Forbes, The Economist, Bloomberg, Ars Technica, Gizmodo, and The Register. Adriel is often an invited keynote or panelist at events such as Blackhat USA, InfoSec World, VICELAND Cyberwar, BSides, and NAW Billion Dollar CIO Roundtable.