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Do I Need Both a Vulnerability Scan and a Pentest?


"Do I need both a vulnerability scan and a pentest?"

It's a good question, and one we frequently field here at Packetlabs. Since a vulnerability scan and a penetration test are separate techniques that differ in goals, intent, and scope, knowing the benefits can help you create an action plan for strengthening your security posture before breaches become a concern.

So what do you need to know about the two approaches, and what can they do for your business when combined? Let's discuss.

Firstly, What is a Vulnerability Scan?

A vulnerability scan checks for common vulnerabilities and issues that may affect the security of your network in general. As such, a vulnerability scan will help you identify weaknesses an attacker could exploit, such as unencrypted data transfers, weak passwords, and open ports.

Once completed, a list of prioritized action items and suggestions to fix them will be auto-generated for your consideration. Organizations should perform a vulnerability scan regularly, which must be a part of their standard risk assessment program.

Through a vulnerability scan, you'll want to stress-test all your existing systems— including, but not limited to, servers, workstations, laptops, and network devices. The results will reveal any critical issues that need an immediate fix.

Both pen testers and third-party vulnerability scanning software providers can perform a vulnerability scan. This can be done by manually reviewing one device at a time or employing a vulnerability management tool to study a range of devices simultaneously. A vulnerability scanner will give you a high-level overview of your network's security risks.

How is a Pentest Different Than a Vulnerability Scan?

A penetration test is an in-depth simulation where an experienced tester will exploit all the identified vulnerabilities the scanner found during its assessment. A penetration tester will not just look for common vulnerabilities but will also actively try to break into your network, thereby pinpointing where exactly your security needs bolstering.

Penetration testing is a simulated attack performed by a third party who is ethically and legally allowed to break into your network. Penetration testing is a simulation of what an actual attacker would do. A tester will employ various hacking techniques to break into your systems and access sensitive information.

While penetration testing is more expensive than a vulnerability scan because it is more extensive and time-consuming, it is undoubtedly worth the investment. Penetration testing is a great way to determine the effectiveness of your existing cybersecurity and identify both existing and potential future gaps.

Combining Pen Testing and Vulnerability Scans For Maximum Protection

Vulnerability scanning cannot replace penetration testing, and penetration testing cannot safeguard the entire network on its own. As such, both are crucial at their respective levels and are required by PCI, HIPAA, and ISO 27001.

Collaboration is essential for mitigating cybersecurity risks. A clear understanding of the differences is essential as each serves a different purpose and achieves a different result Organizations should conduct vulnerability scans regularly to keep their network and devices secure. In addition to maintaining a close eye on the environment and mobile workforces, weekly scans assist larger firms in tackling vulnerabilities. 


In medium-sized and large enterprises, monthly scans are often necessary to ensure the patching process is functioning correctly. For smaller enterprises, quarterly scanning is the minimum interval. 

We know the importance of consistently combining vulnerability scans and pentests first-hand. As a North American SOC 2 Type II certified penetration testing company that partners with organizations just like yours in the name of safeguarding digital spaces, we make it our mission to make your cybersecurity impregnable.

First founded back in 2002, our team of global ethical hackers has built our reputation on going beyond the standard pentest: we deliver 360-degree solutions, 95% manual testing, and a 100% commitment to actionable results.

Packetlabs' pen testing modules can help you avoid exposure to any exposed services and tackle risks emanating from new features, substantial code changes, or platform upgrades. For more information, contact us today for your free quote.

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