Automated Penetration Testing vs Manual Penetration Testing
It’s always a good idea to start with the basics. Automated penetration testing and manual penetration testing are two different types of security tests that can be run on an organization’s network.
In this blog post, we’ll show you the difference between these two types of security tests so you can decide which one would work best for your company
What Is Automated Penetration Testing?
Automated penetration testing is when a computer program finds vulnerabilities in the system and then exploits them, without human interaction.
- Finds vulnerabilities that automated tools are designed to find (vulnerabilities in web applications, servers, and network devices)
- Automated tools can run as frequently as you want
- Testers need not have an in-depth knowledge of common web applications and network attacks
- Automated penetration tests are typically performed in one sweep, whereas manual penetration tests require multiple passes over the same network because
- Automated penetration testing takes much lesser time than manual testing
- You can schedule automated tools to run during “off hours”
- The speed of the test makes it more cost-effective and risk manageable
- You can conduct it by yourself without relying on any security firm
- Automated tools are scalable so they can run on large networks
- Cannot find vulnerabilities that require a human’s intelligence and reasoning, such as logic or business process flaws
- Automated tools cannot find vulnerabilities that require human interaction
- Automated tools cannot find vulnerabilities when the software is not updated
- Not able to test for physical security issues (e.g., ID badges not working). This is because automated tools cannot test something that is “physically” present
- Automated tools cannot find vulnerabilities that are not in their database (vulnerabilities such as misconfigurations or unpatched systems)
- Automation testing requires a lot of system resources, slowing down the network and sometimes crashing systems
- Automated tools cannot provide a high-level threat assessment in a short time frame.
- Automation can only go so far; there may be bugs within the program itself or it might not recognize certain
Manual penetration testing is when an individual or team finds vulnerabilities by manually scanning for them, typically through the use of automated tools such as vulnerability scanners.
Manual penetration testing can cover a wide range of attacks. There is much more room for error when testers run different types of tests manually.
Manual penetration testing typically involves the following:
- Vulnerability scanning
- Exploiting vulnerabilities that were found through vulnerability scanning or manual research
- Gathering user data from social engineering (asking too many questions over email)
As you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages when you look into automated penetration testing. However, the same goes for manual penetration testing.
Manual penetration tests take much longer than automated testing since a person has to perform each test manually. Automated tests are much more consistent because they’re all done in the same way. And it’s much cheaper to run manual penetration tests compared to automated tests.
Manual penetration tests have their own list of benefits- humans can test for vulnerabilities that automated tools cannot find (such as social engineering or physical entry), there is flexibility for the tester to perform testing in different ways, and it is more cost-effective than automated penetration tests.
Manual tests have their own disadvantages as well: they take a long time so may not be run often enough to ensure security, testers can make mistakes or even “goof off” if there’s no one watching over them, and testers are only human so they may miss vulnerabilities due to fatigue.
So, which one is better?
It’s up to you! Automated penetration tests can be run quickly, consistently, and at a lower cost- but it won’t find everything that manual probing will. If automated tools were able to find everything, we wouldn’t have manual penetration tests. Automated tools are great for basic scanning and catching low-hanging fruit.
However, there is no substitute for a human being who can analyze and think critically about what they’re seeing.
Automated tools are great for scanning large swaths of information, but they can’t replace manual penetration tests. Apart from that, automated tools have a lot of benefits when it comes to finding vulnerabilities.
With the proper strategy, manual penetration tests can be just as beneficial. Automated tools are good for quick security audits as well.
When it comes to penetration testing, there are two schools of thought. Some people believe that automated tools provide the best results with less effort and time spent on them, but others argue that manual pen-testing has a higher success rate.
Ultimately, every business is different so you should do your research before deciding which type of tool works for you after comparing Automated Penetration Testing vs Manual Penetration Testing .