The Differences between Penetration Tests, Audits, and Security Assessments

With the number of data breaches at an all time high, it’s no wonder businesses are expanding their security budget and seeking newer and improved ways of protecting their digital assets. Every day the headlines talk about a certain company that has suffered from a security breach.

Organizations are taking a proactive approach towards bolstering their defences against potential threats. However, there seems to be some confusion regarding terminologies which often suffer from misrepresentation and are generally misunderstood.

In this blog, we highlight the main differences between penetration tests, audits, and security assessments.


A major misunderstand is when people believe audits to be some form of a security assessments. An audit is definitely not a penetration test and is more of a check-box activity that ensures a company is in line with the compliance standards of the industry it operations in with regards to organizational structures, technology, internal processes, etc.

Simply put, audits help in identifying whether certain components are found within an organization but they don’t help in testing their effectiveness. While compliance does play a crucial role in maintaining a strong organizational framework, it doesn’t demonstrate the effectiveness of the security system if it does come under attack.

Penetration Tests

Breaches occur when the vulnerabilities within a system are exploited in order to gain access. The main goal then becomes to gain administrative access, which essentially allows the infiltrators to gain access to critical and sensitive information.

Penetration tests are done to gauge the strength of a company’s security systems. Similar to healthcare professionals, the tools and skills of the testers will determine the value of their services. This process is also time consuming when it comes to explaining results to the management who’s final decision hinges on the effective explaining of security vulnerabilities.

Security Assessments

This is the process in which operating systems, application software, and network devices are scanned to identify the presence of unknown and known vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities are signified by a weakness, error or gap within the system and security design. Exploitation of such gaps allow for unauthorized access, denial of services, and an escalation of privileges.

 Security assessments go so far as to identify the vulnerabilities without executing an attack as conducted during penetration tests. It outlines the potential risks to a system and highlights possible corrective measures. Security assessments can be carried out using a number of tools based on operating systems, system types, open ports for communications, etc.

These assessments represent a valuable tool for identifying the areas that require attention and future investment.

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Understanding the difference between these terminologies and their importance can play a key role in defensive your business from future attacks that can possibly lead to significant financial losses. Our penetration testing services and network vulnerability assessment will ensure your online business processes and transactions remain risk-free. Contact us today!