6 Differences Between Vulnerability Analysis and Pentest

6 Differences Between Vulnerability Analysis and Pentest

Many people hear Pentest (penetration testing) and vulnerability analysis. Yet, these terms are often confused. This article is about what pentest and vulnerability analysis are, the differences between pentest and vulnerability analysis, and which one you should choose in which situation.


What Is Pentest?

Pentest aims to simulate the real-life scenario that can occur during a cyberattack on the firm’s information system hardware, software, and application. Pentest experts use the detected security vulnerabilities to penetrate the system, analyze what can cause these vulnerabilities, and report the results.


Pentest Types

  • Web-Based Pentest: This is a Pentest type to discover the security vulnerabilities in web-based applications and report them.
  • Local Network (Intranet) Pentest: This is a Pentest type on the firm’s/company’s local network that is not open to the internet and to report detected security vulnerabilities.
  • Wi-Fi Pentest: This is a Pentest type to detect and report the defined rules, vulnerabilities, and other weak points between the firm’s/company’s wireless network and connected devices.
  • Social Engineering Pentest: This is a Pentest type that detects a malicious attacker who misleads and manipulates an individual in a firm or institution to obtain critical information and reports such incidents. The primary purpose of this test is to increase information security awareness.
  • Mobile App Pentest: This is a pentest applied to test the security of application developed for mobile (Android or iOS) operating systems.
  • IoT Pentest: Usually covers dynamic analysis, static analysis, firmware hardening, web application test, API security, and reverse engineering.


Pentest Approaches

Usually, three types of pentest approaches are applied.

White Box Approach: In this approach, the information about the system that will be tested is explained to the pentest team. Thus, pentest experts do not spend too much time on the information collection stage and look for vulnerabilities.

Grey Box Approach: In this approach, the information about the system to be tested is shared with a pentest team, but this information is not as detailed as the white-box approach. The purpose of this test is to calculate how a user with a low authorization range can damage it.

Black Box Approach: In this approach, the pentest team does not receive any information about the system. That is because the test aims to calculate the possible attacks by anyone without any knowledge of the system and damages that might be caused by this attack.


Benefits of Pentest

Protects from Attacks: These tests provide information about threats and methods to prevent any business continuity disruptions. Also, such events can be classified and prioritized. This way, it is easier to see vulnerabilities.

Necessary for Legal Compliance: Pentest must be regularly applied for legal compliance (PCI-DSS, ISO 27001, HIPAA, etc.).

Financial Damage Prevention: Any attack on the system might lead millions of dollars of loss for large or medium-scale companies and bankruptcy for small-scale. Generally, attackers demand money from captured companies by encrypting critical data.

Firm Image Protection: Since the company will be damaged after an attack, the pentest can protect the company reputation.

Customer Information Protection: In many countries, data holder firms/institutions are also the data responsible for these critical data.


What is Vulnerability Analysis?

This is a type of security test to define, rate, and classify security vulnerabilities in an information system to detect threats against a company at a certain level and to take precautions to prevent these threats. Generally, the test is done with automatic tools. These tools test whether the related systems have a well-known vulnerability.

Benefits of Vulnerability Analysis

The cost is lower than a pentest. Since the price is low, the analysis can be frequently repeated. Fast vulnerability analysis is possible when urgent actions are needed. It is an excellent method to check new vulnerabilities.

Do you need a vulnerability analysis if you are doing pentest?

The answer to this question is yes. Although you have pentest, you will also need vulnerability analysis.

Because the number of vulnerabilities with CVE number in 2019 was 12,174. If you have a pentest every six months, there are approximately 6 thousand new vulnerabilities

From this perspective, it can be seen that the hackers can benefit from the vulnerabilities of your system easily as new vulnerabilities occur between each pentest.

Therefore, it is crucial to have vulnerability analysis even if you have pentest.

6 Differences Between Vulnerability Analysis and Pentest

  1. Vulnerability analysis aims to eliminate as many security vulnerabilities as possible. Pentest takes it one step further. In Pentest, security experts may detect vulnerabilities that can’t be found with automatic scanning and present evidence that these vulnerabilities can be exploited.
  2. While a vulnerability analysis can be automated, Pentest can be both manual and automated.
  3. Since only automatic operations are done during a vulnerability analysis, it can be done with a tool. But you might need a professional to reach the scanning report and take necessary actions. Since a real hacker is required for a Pentest, this option will cost more. But pentest gives you a better view than a vulnerability analysis.
  4. While the vulnerability analysis is list-focused, Pentest is a target-oriented process. A Pentest mainly tests how much an attacker could create damage by using which vulnerabilities when that attacker strikes to the company. This way, unique vulnerability detection for your company/institution is possible.
  5. A Pentest can discover the 0-day vulnerabilities known as undiscovered vulnerabilities in the literature. Vulnerability analysis tends to find and close the pre-known vulnerabilities.
  6. The results of the vulnerability analysis might be false positive. Thus, the results of the test define possible security vulnerabilities. However, a Pentest has concrete evidence as the related vulnerability evidence will be presented as an image or video.

Which approach should we choose?

It would help if you had both of them in specific periods. Each approach has separate power to uncover the security vulnerabilities in your system. If you don’t have regular vulnerability analysis or pentest, your system will inevitably experience a successful cyberattack. It is recommended to have a Pentest at least every 6 months and vulnerability analysis in change management process.