A vulnerability assessment uses automated network security scanning tools. The results are listed in the vulnerability assessment report, which focuses on providing enterprises with a list of vulnerabilities that need to be fixed. However, it does so without evaluating specific attack goals or scenarios.
Organizations should employ vulnerability testing on a regular basis to ensure the security of their networks, particularly when changes are made. For example, testing should be done when services are added, new equipment is installed or ports are opened.
In contrast, penetration testing involves identifying vulnerabilities in a network, and it attempts to exploit them to attack the system. Although sometimes carried out in concert with vulnerability assessments, the primary aim of penetration testing is to check whether a vulnerability really exists. In addition, penetration testing tries to prove that exploiting a vulnerability can damage the application or network.
While a vulnerability assessment is usually automated to cover a wide variety of unpatched vulnerabilities, penetration testing generally combines automated and manual techniques to help testers delve further into the vulnerabilities and exploit them to gain access to the network in a controlled environment.