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Adapting Penetration Testing Practices in the Age of Vulnerability Scanners

icon Posted by: Praveen Joshi
icon March 24, 2023

In Brief

Vulnerability Scanners

Vulnerability Scanners are automated tools backed by advanced algorithms and complex scripts. Security testers use these scanners to discover vulnerabilities within a given system and prepare a comprehensive report on them. There are different types of scanners available for internal and external vulnerability scanning. The internal vulnerability scanners look for vulnerabilities within the systems susceptible to exploitation and insider threats. On the other hand, external vulnerability scanners are responsible for identifying vulnerabilities outside the network perimeter. The external scanners are deployed from an external point to know about the weak points that might allow hackers to enter the systems.


is the expected Cumulative Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) for the penetration testing market between 2021 and 2028.


of organizations are not at par with the required cyber security standards.


of businesses hire a third-party penetration testing team to do the job for their organization.


of respondents to a survey said that they built an in-house pen testing team at their organization.

How is the Practice of Penetration Testing Still Relevant in the Age of Vulnerability Scanners?

Penetration testing is the best way to test the resilience of a security infrastructure since its inception in the cybersecurity domain. Testing teams use it to exploit vulnerabilities within the target systems. This process is important to know the impact of the vulnerabilities on your systems and what threats they are inviting.

Nowadays, vulnerability scanners are easily available in the market. They are a relatively cheaper solution to finding known vulnerabilities within a given aspect of IT infrastructure.

The availability of vulnerability scanners and other such tools and technologies has increased exponentially in recent years. Still, penetration testing has managed to maintain its relevance among the top cyber security practices due to the following reasons:

1. The Scope of Vulnerability Scanners is Limited

The vulnerability scanning tools have a limited capacity. They operate on detecting vulnerabilities that are already known to them. In other words, vulnerability scanners rely on identifying the security weaknesses that are publicly known or that are already present in their database. These tools are not able to detect newly discovered vulnerabilities. For instance, zero-day vulnerabilities that are not documented would remain undetected by these scanners. Later these vulnerabilities lead to the exploitation of your systems by hackers.

Measures like vulnerability assessments and penetration testing fill this gap. It uncovers all the known as well as hidden vulnerabilities within the said infrastructure. Plus, pentesting process like application penetration testing involves using a combination of automated and manual techniques. This helps the testing teams identify and remediate the security gaps before they lead to exploitation.

2. Scanning a Vulnerability is not Enough

Vulnerability scanners certainly scan the vulnerabilities and highlight them. However, limited, but they do. But it is not enough to just scan the vulnerability. Scanning won’t make your infrastructure strong enough to resist attacks. You need to assess the impact of the vulnerabilities on your systems. This is where the vulnerability scanners fail. These tools and not equipped with enough features to analyze the severity of a vulnerability.

You need penetration testing to determine the impact of the vulnerabilities. Pentesting also tells you the severity of the consequences of a successful exploit of each vulnerability. It is the real-life simulation of an attack targeted at your systems with a hacker’s mindset. This helps you see how your current security measures and policies will pose resistance to an incoming attack vector.

3. Penetration Testing Works Beyond the Limits of Vulnerability Scanners

Let us understand this through an example. Suppose you scan an application with a vulnerability scanner. It will only identify the security vulnerabilities within the application, that too only known ones. These scanners won’t detect the weaknesses in the underlying infrastructure which includes the application’s authentication mechanism. Vulnerability scans won’t vet the pathway that can allow hackers unauthorized access to your sensitive data.

On the other hand, conducting application penetration testing on the same application will give you more comprehensive outcomes. Not only does it identify the vulnerabilities left by the vulnerability scanner. But it also detects other flaws like misconfigurations and authentication problems. Furthermore, it also provides recommendations for improving the application’s security.

Before You Go!

  • Penetration testing provides your organization with better and more comprehensive assessments, results, and recommendations for your organization’s security posture. This is the reason why it has managed to maintain its place in the current age of Vulnerability Scanners.
  • If you also need to have a deep look at the current level of your organization’s cyber security, reach out to the vapt services near you.


  • application penetration testing
  • Penetration Testing
  • vapt services
  • vulnerability assessments and penetration testing

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