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RE: Vulnerability Assessment vs. PenTest
From: "Mark Ausley, CISSP" <Mark () markausley com>
Date: Sat, 5 Aug 2006 00:47:15 -0400

A Vulnerability Assessment can vary in scale and complexity but will
generally include the following:

1. External scan with Nessus, STAT, Retina, etc to obtain general security
posture of systems.
2. Internal scan with something like CIS tools, DISA scripts, Gold Disk etc
to assess the configuration of the systems and their patch levels, etc.
There is some overlap between these first two steps.
3. Review system architecture and associated documentation.
4. Interview SysAdmins & Engineers on system operation.
5. Review existing policy, procedures, SOPs, etc.
6. Perform and document the risk analysis.

A PEN test on the other hand can include any number of the VA items but
usually include a much wider array of testing tools.

A PEN test is usually a few hours to a few days as opposed to a VA which can
take months to perform. Also, during PEN tests you usually have little
knowledge of the target systems prior to the test. A VA involves
unrestricted access and knowledge of the target systems.

A PEN test usually has a pre-set goal. The scope of the testing and its goal
is usually spelled out to the tester and can be limited or unlimited. A PEN
test can be more likely to break or disrupt normal operations than a VA and
always requires official documents indicating what is allowed.

PEN tests really illustrate the relationship of vulnerabilities and how they
can string together to open a hole in what appeared to be a solid wall.


-- Mark

-----Original Message-----
From: James Harless [mailto:jharless () kidwellcompanies com] 
Sent: Friday, August 04, 2006 4:57 PM
To: pen-test () securityfocus com
Subject: Vulnerability Assessment vs. PenTest

Where is the line between a Vulnerability Assessment and a PenTest?  In
other words, which tests do you run which identifies your assessment as
a pentest rather than a VA?  
 
And, related, do VAs still have value?  Do you feel that a PenTest
includes everything that a VA would (and more)?
 
My thoughts are that a VA is just an effort to document all the
identified and potential vulnerabilities on a network.  A PenTest is an
attempt to identify those vulnerabilities and then exploit some of them
to verify their weakness.
 
 
James

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