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What are Vulnerability Scans and Penetration Testing?

With the number of threats that networked environments face nowadays, it is important to develop at least a basic understanding of the cybersecurity measures that you need. Among such measures are vulnerability scanning and penetration testing, aside from the must-have presence of a program for a free online antivirus scan. Both methods offer different levels of protection that you need to understand so you will know why you need to invest in them.

Vulnerability Scanning

A vulnerability scan looks for known vulnerabilities in your network operations, software, or applications. This is vital for information security as it detects potential weaknesses in structure or code, the same way that you rely on antivirus software to spot malicious programs on your computer.

Vulnerability scanning is comparable to how a manufacturing engineer surveys his product to test its structural integrity. Each scan aims to look for areas where hackers and malicious files might be able to enter and attack your system.

Vulnerability scanning has a business- or organization-wide coverage hence requires the use of automated tools to test all of your network devices. It has a broader scope than penetration testing.

There are two types of vulnerability scans you can use – authenticated and unauthenticated. Authenticated scans involve direct network access using remote desktop protocol (RDP) and secure shell (SSH). On the other hand, an unauthenticated scan only gets to check publicly visible information without access to the details of the assets being scanned. This is often conducted by security analysts trying to determine just how secure a network operation is.

While you can use a free online antivirus scan to detect viruses, malware, and spyware, you can get Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) as your vulnerability scanner. This type of scanner can check installed software, validate certificates, open ports, and more.

Just like how a free online antivirus scan software like Comodo Internet Security works by checking files against its cloud database of known good and bad files, vulnerability scanners also count on updated lists of vulnerabilities. Having said that, Comodo’s database is continuously updated, making it the largest certificate authority in the world, with 85 million deployed endpoints. Aside from providing a free online antivirus scan, Comodo also comes with other features, such as anti-malware, anti-rootkit, anti-spyware, bot protection, and memory firewall, which are supported by Windows 7, 8, and 10 operating systems.

After the scan, vulnerabilities are categorized based on the level of risk that they present. Lower-priority weaknesses may allow hackers to lurk around and get information without a breach, while critical vulnerabilities may allow attackers to exploit these weaknesses and stage a damaging security breach.

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Penetration Testing

Unlike the coverage of a vulnerability scan, penetration testing has a more targeted scope. It cannot be automated. The test needs to be done at the network- or application-level or be limited to a certain number of assets, department or functions within the organization. It can also be done to include the assets and applications of the entire organization, but this is an impractical scope that will cost a lot of time and money.

While it is essential to conduct a free online antivirus scan in all of your computers and devices, it’s a must to define the scope of penetration testing for practical reasons. It boils down to the importance and value of an asset and the level of risk that it is exposed to. It may be a waste of money to try and break into low-risk assets, which may consume a few days to exploit. Penetration testing is costly because of the high-skilled testers that you need to hire.

Penetration testers develop a script, edits the parameters of the attack, or changes the settings of the tools they use while conducting a test. They often find new vulnerabilities or weaknesses that not many business processes may have after testing assets for several days to a few weeks. Since it is expensive and may trigger outages once an attack gets through, penetration testing is usually done annually.


Our information security systems are not immune to intruder attacks. Hackers are constantly snooping at our networks for weaknesses. With this, we need to be prepared by conducting vulnerability assessments and penetration testing.

Comodo Internet Security

Comodo Internet Security offers the latest features and protection at a very affordable price. It scans, detects, and removes each infection found on your computer so you can rest assured that your system remains clean. It will bring peace of mind to all computer users.

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