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Vulnerability Assessment tests are a series of tests performed on a system to identify the vulnerability of the system. This is a Security Assessment conducted to understand the vulnerabilities and by this process the vulnerabilities are identified and exposed to the security experts who in turn are able to quantify and prioritise such vulnerabilities.
Basically a vulnerability of a system refers to the inability of the system to withstand a hostile threat to its environment and the effects that may be caused by this hostile attack.
Vulnerability assessment has many things in common with risk assessment. Wiki states that assessments are typically performed according to the following steps:
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Penetration Tests are different from VA, in that they simulate an actual attack on a computer system or network as it would have been from an external or internal threat. By this method we are able to evaluate the computer or network's security levels based on the defined objective of the test. Thus a penetration test can help determine whether a system is vulnerable to attack, if the defences were sufficient and which defences (if any) were defeated in the penetration test.
As new technologies emerge and change the IT scenarios, newer security challenges are given to be faced by corporates. Thus the business that do transaction over the internet are at high risk, though other companies are also at risk when being exposed to external networks. Thus many unforeseen traps with multiple vulnerabilities and numerous threats do manifest themselves in the least expected time and at the least expected place. Thus in order to take-up such challenges and address then, a robust system with appropriate security policies, adequate controls, periodic review and monitoring are to be in place to protect the organisation's information assets. Hence it is highly recommended to carry out an indepth Network Assessment comprising of VA-PT audits in a periodic manner to ensure compliance to controls established and the policies set in the organisation and further to evaluate whether they are adequate to address all the threats.