Penetration Testing vs Security Auditing

penetration testing vs cybersecurity auditing

Penetration testing and security auditing evaluate an organization’s security posture from various perspectives. There is an overlap between the two in terms of execution, with both having similar goals of identifying gaps in security and patching up these holes. Penetration testing will be a realistic simulation of an attacker attempting to access the target environment, while a security audit will be a more in-depth analysis of any security controls, policies, and procedures in place.

Penetration Testing

Penetration testing usually begins with the tester having little knowledge of how the environment operates and focuses on trying to gather that knowledge and craft a targeted attack. This can be done with little restraints, where the tester is allowed to possibly set off alarms that would notify the defensive team of attack, or silently, where the tester goes in with the goal of remaining undetected by the target organization.

While it is typically thought of in the context of attacking computer networks, penetration testing can also be done against physical networks. Tests often include a mix of attacking physical and virtual infrastructure with a specific end goal, such as access to a particular room or file. Penetration tests are commonly done without any information about the target environment, but they can also be done with specific allowances from the client, such as credentials to an application or access from a “compromised” workstation.

A significant advantage of penetration testing is that it will realistically simulate what an attacker will do. Penetration testers are skillful in employing the same techniques as modern, advanced criminals and can identify the paths the bad guys will look for. These tests can be done to test many different situations, such as an attacker just finding the network for the first time, an advanced threat silently hiding in the network, or even a disgruntled employee attempting to steal something from their boss’s desk.

Security Auditing

Security auditing is a very comprehensive and methodical approach to security testing. It typically follows one of many frameworks developed with the purpose of evaluating the security of different environments and information. Unlike penetration testing, this is done with full knowledge and typically coordination from any security staff. The auditor will work closely with the client to identify any flaws in security procedures through careful analysis.

Similarly to penetration testing, security audits can be done for any type of environment. There are many different types of audits based on individual client requirements. All of these involve interviews with the defensive security team to identify controls in place, analysis of the strengths of these controls, and corrective actions based on any identified weaknesses. This can look for many things, ranging from poor patch management to improper data storage. The identified vulnerabilities will vary wildly depending on the individual network being tested.

Security auditing is a comprehensive type of security testing that covers as many holes as possible. It is a slow and methodical process compared to penetration testing. While penetration testing does a great job at simulating attackers, security auditing does a better job of covering general problems. For example, a penetration test may reveal that the tester is able to access sensitive internal devices but can not find valid credentials for a database. A security audit will show that there are unencrypted credentials in that database that an actual attack could have accessed with enough time.

One disadvantage of security auditing is that specific problems might be overlooked due to the uniqueness of each network. A comprehensive penetration test may find specialized attacks that are not commonly thought of otherwise. Security audits are better at covering the vast ground and getting an understanding of the overall security posture of an organization, while penetration tests will typically do better at identifying realistic attack paths that an attacker might use to compromise a sensitive environment.

Meet Your Security Testing Needs With Blue Goat Cyber

Our team is skilled in many different types of security audits and penetration tests. We can help your organization meet your security needs and reduce the risk of attack. Blue Goat testers employ the latest techniques to ensure that your network is kept fully secure. We can also help you meet regulatory requirements that you may have through security auditing. If you are unsure of what would be the best approach for your organization, we can help you with that. Contact us to schedule a meeting.

Blog Search

Social Media