Penetration Testing vs Vulnerability Assessment

The Confusion between Penetration Testing vs. Vulnerability Assessment

There seems to be a certain amount of confusion within the Information Technology arena about the differences between Penetration Testing and Vulnerability Assessment. They are often classified as the same thing, when in fact they are not. Penetration Testing is more aggressive and intrusive, it goes a step further and involves trying to technically break into the client systems or servers to prove they are vulnerable. However, in our experience, we have found that most clients only require a comprehensive Vulnerability Assessment and not the more intrusive Penetration Test.

The inherent risk is that a Penetration Test, by potentially exploiting flaws in the client software or operating system, can cause instability when testing production environments. However, if Penetration Testing is required, we carefully understand and consider all factors to avoid performance issues.

The Penetration Test

A Penetration Test is a method of evaluating the security of a computer system or network by simulating an attack by a malicious hacker. The process involves an active analysis of the system for any weaknesses, technical flaws or vulnerabilities. This analysis is carried out from the position of a potential attacker and can involve active exploitation of security vulnerabilities. Any security issues that are found will be presented to the system owner, along with an assessment of impact and typically with a proposal for mitigation or a technical solution.

The Vulnerability Assessment

Vulnerability Assessment is a broad term that is often applied to various things; it is closely related to a Risk Assessment which is part of Business Continuity Planning and Disaster Recovery Development. But at the core, Vulnerability Assessments involve the process of identifying and quantifying technical vulnerabilities in a system, known as exploits. These exploits put the system at risk.

In addition to standard assessments, Interactive Security can meet the more complex requirements of PCI-DSS ASV scanning. We also offer comprehensive Penetration Test and Vulnerability Assessment report reviews for clients with more specific concerns.

Are you wondering about your organization’s data risks and are interested in a Penetration Test or Vulnerability Scan? Contact the Interactive Security team at 267-824-2500 or We’re here to help make cybersecurity and compliance audits Obtainable, Simple and Affordable!

Shawn Corrigan

Shawn Corrigan is the President and Founder of Interactive Security Holdings Inc. Interactive Security has grown into a global company offering IT Compliance Auditing services for small to large companies - focused on making it obtainable, simple and affordable. With over 20 years in the BPO and Financial industry working at the executive level, Corrigan has experienced the pitfalls, trials and tribulations of bringing an enterprise organization into IT compliance. Corrigan has designed a methodology geared at guiding clients of any size to successfully achieve compliance and ultimately obtain compliance certification. Corrigan is certified as a FISMA – NIST Implementor, PCI-DSS QSA, HiTRUST Certified Practitioner and HiTRUST Certified Quality Professional, ISO 27001 Lead Auditor and Implementor