Vulnerability vs penetration test what is the difference?.

What’s the difference between a vulnerability scan and a penetration test?

Yann Cybersecurity 6 minutes

In the realm of Cybersecurity, it’s crucial to understand the differences between several types of security assessments to learn where your organisation is vulnerable, so you can steer away from companies disguising basic vulnerability scans as comprehensive penetration tests. Two frequently used security assessments are vulnerability scans and penetration tests. Although they may appear the same, they have distinct purposes in finding holes in your digital defences.

Picture your network’s security as your overall health, and the assessments as medical check-ups. Much like how you visit different specialists for different health issues; cybersecurity employs different approaches to provide comprehensive protection.

A vulnerability scan can be likened to a routine check-up with your general practitioner (GP). It’s a broad assessment aimed at identifying potential weaknesses within your network. Like your GP checking your vital signs, a vulnerability scan checks your IT network and systems for known vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and other potential entry points for cyber-attacks. It provides a basic overview of your network’s security posture, highlighting areas that require attention.

Conversely, a penetration test delves deeper into your network’s security, much like visiting a specialist for a specific health concern. A penetration test is akin to consulting a specialist after your GP’s initial check-up. Penetration tests involve simulating real-world cyber-attacks to assess how well your IT network and systems can withstand attacks. Penetration testers attempt to exploit vulnerabilities discovered during the scan to gain unauthorised access.  Think of it like sticking your finger into an open wound to see if it hurts.  Penetration tests provide a more in-depth understanding of your network’s security posture; they uncover potential risks that may not be apparent through a vulnerability scan and tell you which vulnerabilities you need to fix.

In summary, a vulnerability scan is like a regular health check-up to identify known issues, whereas a penetration test is akin to a diagnostic test designed to probe deeper into identified issues, test the body’s (system’s) defences, and understand the potential impact of those vulnerabilities. Both are essential for maintaining a healthy, secure network, much like regular check-ups and targeted tests are crucial for maintaining good health.

Ensure you’re getting the depth of assessment your network truly needs.

Learn more about Pen Testing

Guest blog from Cybility Consulting Ltd

Cybility is a UK-based cybersecurity provider of consultancy and training with a playful twist.  We demystify cybersecurity for leaders and their teams by providing clarity, building capability, and cultivating confidence; enabling them to build customer trust, and protect their organisations.

We do this through our Cybersecurity Conductor’s Companion™ which consists of 6 pillars:

    • INITIATE: Cybersecurity governance, leadership (vCISO),  and guidance;
    • INOCULATE: Risk identification and assessments including the supply chain;
    • INTEGRATE Embedded security controls in business processes and playful learning experiences for boards, executive teams, and staff;
    • INVESTIGATE Incident management process implementation, training, and testing through table-top exercises and live simulation;
    • INTERROGATE Gap analysis and implementation support for industry frameworks such as ISO 27001, NIST CSF, NHS DSPT, and more;
    • ITERATE: Advice and support for continuous service improvement initiatives.

You can learn more about our services on our website at

Cyability demystifying vulnerability scanning in cybersecurity.