Vulnerability Testing vs. Penetration Testing

Vulnerability Testing vs Penetration Testing.

Cybercrime has followed us since the birth of the Internet and has evolved with it. With the years of cyber attacks, modern systems are learning from the past and becoming more immune, so cyber-attacks should become rarer and rarer. But this is only partially true. Systems are becoming more advanced, but cyber attack methods are becoming more sophisticated and malicious. You can see the sophistication of cyber attacks by looking at the detection and subsequent prosecution rate, which is only 0.05 percent in the US as of 2020 and has not increased dramatically in the last couple of years.

But the maliciousness rate is overgrowing, as you can see from a GlobeNewswire report that says the cost of cyber attacks to companies is only going up from $3 trillion in 2015 to approximately $10.5 trillion by 2025.


You are misleading yourself if you think you are safe because you are not a financial institution. The world has realized that data is the oil of the 21st century, and cybercriminals are no exception. Many of them are not directly stealing funds and are much more interested in stealing company data for resale or destroying that data at the order of those interested in it. To protect yourself from all this in advance, you have Quality Assurance, which ensures the system's quality not only in terms of flexibility and stability of operation but also in terms of security. 

And today, we will take a detailed look at Quality Assurance, especially its essential tools, Vulnerability Testing, and Penetration Testing. We'll detail the differences between Vulnerability Testing and Penetration Testing, as well as their advantages and disadvantages. And most importantly, when and what each is used for.

What Is Vulnerability Testing?

The analogy of a thief watching your house from afar would be appropriate here. He studies which windows and doors are there and which ones may be faulty or remain open for a while. By studying your home and your schedule in detail, the burglar can make a plan of entry, confidence that he will enter unobstructed using one of these ways.

So Vulnerability testing is a type of security testing performed to identify, assess, and report vulnerabilities in an information system. The goal of vulnerability testing is to uncover system weaknesses that attackers could exploit. Some common methods include black box testing, white box testing, and gray box testing.

What Is Vulnerability Testing?
  • Black Box Testing is a type of vulnerability test where the tester does not know the system's inner workings. This test is often used to simulate an attacker's perspective, as it can help identify vulnerabilities that may be difficult to find using other methods.
  • White Box Testing is a type of vulnerability test where the tester has complete knowledge of the system being tested. This type of test can be used to identify both technical and non-technical vulnerabilities.
  • Gray Box Testing lies between black box and white box testing. In this type of test, the tester has some knowledge of the system, but its knowledge is incomplete. This type of test can be used to identify both technical and non-technical vulnerabilities.

Such tests are rather extensive and sequential, so their overall launch can be automated. It leads to the vulnerability assessment approach, in which automating the overall testing running provides a complete system examination for all existing vulnerabilities. And it leads us to a vulnerability scanning approach that provides automated, continuous, and consistent application of the previous approach to ongoing vulnerability detection and remediation.

A full third-party vulnerability assessment also helps to obtain an independent evaluation of the real situation and, in addition, to ensure that the system complies with industry security standards, which gives more opportunities for its application and the special attention of investors.

For example, data security is essential everywhere, especially in the case of financial services. Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, or simply PCI DSS, is absolutely necessary for any official financial service. Otherwise, none of the potentially large or even middle business partners would ever contact a service that doesn't meet the PCI Data Security Standard. 

For example, we at Mad Devs also help companies that their solutions meet the highest security standards. We achieve this by carefully studying and configuring the product and its infrastructure, improving continuous security monitoring and testing, increasing vulnerability detection accuracy, and improving the entire system's flexibility and stability. You can see more about this in our case study with GuardRails:.


The Benefits of Vulnerability Testing

Vulnerability tests can have many benefits for organizations that use them.

  • Identifying potential security weaknesses before attackers do, saving organizations a lot of time and money in the long run.
  • Helping organizations improve their overall security posture by providing insight into where their systems need improvement.
  • Helping organizations better understand their attack surface. An attack surface is the total sum of all the potential points of entry that an attacker could use to gain access to a system or data. So organizations can more effectively prioritize their security efforts and resources by understanding their attack surface.
  • Building trust with customers and partners. Organizations seen proactively working to improve their security posture are often viewed more favorably than those not taking such measures.

The Limitations of Vulnerability Testing

While vulnerability tests can have many benefits, there are also some limitations.

  • They can be time-consuming and resource-intensive. Conducting comprehensive tests can require significant time and effort from security professionals and system administrators.
  • They only provide a snapshot in time. They can help identify potential weaknesses at a specific point in time, but they cannot predict future vulnerabilities.
  • No guarantee that all vulnerabilities will be found, as new ones can come over time.
  • Not enough to improve security. Organizations must also take action to address the vulnerabilities that are identified. Failure to do so could leave systems and data at risk of attack.

However, we mentioned earlier that you could avoid the latter limitations using vulnerability tests in conjunction with vulnerability assessment and vulnerability scanning approaches.

Vulnerability Testing Market

The global security and vulnerability management market was valued at $13.8 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $18.7 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 6.3% during the forecast period.

Markets and Markets

The market's growth is primarily driven by the increasing number of cyberattacks and data breaches worldwide. With the growing number of attacks, organizations are under pressure to find and fix security vulnerabilities before attackers do. It has led to an increase in demand for vulnerability testing services and solutions.

The major players in the market include IBM Corporation (US), Hewlett Packard Enterprise Development LP (US), Rapid7 LLC (US), Qualys Inc.(US), Trustwave Holdings, Inc.(US), Veracode, Inc.(US), WhiteHat Security(US), BeyondTrust Corporation(US).


What Is Penetration Testing?

Here the analogy of a thief is appropriate, but not one who looks around the house and sneaks into doors and windows that are unlocked by mistake. Rather, it looks more like a thief who purposefully picks the lock on a door while the owners are asleep or even just in another room.

So penetration testing, also known as pen testing or ethical hacking, is a simulated purposefully cyber attack against your system or its specific parts to check for exploitable vulnerabilities.

Penetration Testing

Penetration Testing, as well as Vulnerability Testing, is part of Quality Assurance because it has similar goals of providing the highest level of system security. But is not an integral part of Vulnerability Assessment and Vulnerability Scanning because it is not automated and is largely done manually. It is an essential complement to them, which can help you determine how well your system holds up against attacks and identify which parts need to be improved.

The Benefits of Penetration Testing

As you can understand, Penetration Testing is a more unconventional way to get into the system, so their benefits are inevitable. Penetration testing can find vulnerabilities that other types of tests, such as vulnerability scans, may miss. This is because penetration tests are designed to simulate real-world attacks rather than just looking for specific security flaws. In addition, penetration tests can help you assess the effectiveness of your security approaches.

The Limitations of Penetration Testing

Of course, it also has some limitations, which must be taken into account and not put excessive expectations on it. Penetration testing can be expensive and time-consuming, especially if you need to hire outside experts to do it. Also, it may be disruptive to business operations if done during business hours. And finally, penetration tests only reveal weaknesses that are known at the time of the test; new vulnerabilities may be discovered later.

Penetration Testing Market

Dividing the market into different types of testing may seem dubious, but such studies do take place and offer some interesting figures.

The Penetration Testing Market is expected to grow from $1.4 billion in 2022 to $2.7 billion by 2027, at a CAGR of 13.7% from 2022 to 2027.

Markets and Markets

We see that key players are focused on launching innovative products and services as they try to gain a competitive edge in the global penetration testing market. In 2019, IBM launched new penetration testing services that combine cognitive capabilities with human expertise to help organizations identify and mitigate cybersecurity risks. Similarly, Accenture launched an AI-based penetration testing solution that uses machine learning algorithms to constantly evolve and adapt to changing cyber threats. KPMG also introduced a cybersecurity testing solution that helps organizations assess their exposure to cyber risks and implement mitigation strategies. And, of course, Cisco, which in addition to its rich infrastructure, provides powerful solutions for testing and obtaining security certificates.

Vulnerability Testing vs. Penetration Testing

Vulnerability Testing vs Penetration Testing

As you have understood, vulnerability scanning vs. penetration testing is not quite correct to oppose because the first is an entirely automated approach, which is universally applied and consistently improved. The second is a set of tests focused on specific parts of the system at a given time.

For a similar reason, it is not quite correct to oppose vulnerability assessment vs. penetration testing because while the first one also includes a set of tests aimed at assessing the system's state, they are also automated and universal. And the second does not exclude the importance of the first one but rather is a necessary addition to ensure security at all system levels.

Therefore, a correct here is the comparison of tests, specifically penetration testing vs. vulnerability testing. Although they serve the same purpose, they have different features and provide different results, which can be important if you only need one for whatever reason. Let's look at them in a direct comparison.

Advantages of Vulnerability and Penetration Testing

Helping organizations find and fix vulnerabilities before attackers can exploit them. Identifying weaknesses that cannot be found with vulnerability scanners or other automated tools.
Enabling organizations to prioritize their remediation efforts based on the severity of the vulnerabilities. Testing the effectiveness of security controls such as firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention systems, and access control measures.
Providing a baseline for measuring the effectiveness of security approaches. Providing insights into how an attacker might think and act during an actual attack.
Allowing organizations to track their progress over time in reducing the number and severity of vulnerabilities. Shows how the system will behave under heavy load when attacked under real conditions.

Disadvantages of Vulnerability and Penetration Testing

Can generate false positives, wasting time and effort if not properly managed. Show weaknesses at the time of the test but not potential weaknesses.
May also miss some types of vulnerabilities if they need to be configured correctly. Can be disruptive to business operations if not planned properly.
Must be updated regularly to keep up with new threats and technological changes. Need access to sensitive information about an organization's infrastructure to conduct their tests effectively.
Show the greatest efficiency requires using entire approaches, and setting up processes to apply them will require additional time and money. Can be more costly for a business in terms of time and money if you need additional experts.


Well, now you know that cyber security is not dying out with the rapid development and improvement of technology, but rather the opposite. The distinction between data and more traditional valuable assets is becoming increasingly blurred, the ways of stealing it are becoming more sophisticated, and attempts to do so are only becoming more frequent. That's why cyber security is one of the top services on the market, and the need for high-quality services is growing rapidly.

Types of testing and whole services are also improving and can offer a higher and higher level of protection. However, to take advantage of this, you need to take it seriously, invest in implementing new processes, and continuously improve existing processes for quality development and product security in particular.

Regarding the primary processes in development, we have an excellent book, Approach to the Software Development Process, where we share the best-proven practices, which we have been diligently polishing over the years, and successfully apply and improve daily.

To understand which processes need to be implemented or improved, you need to initially perform a qualitative technical audit, for which you can contact us. We will examine all the features of your system and its infrastructure to implement all the missing processes and then offer the most profitable solution to ensure the highest flexibility, stability, and safety of its operations.

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