Vulnerability assessment and Penetration testing
A vulnerability assessment is a practice used to identify all potential vulnerabilities that could be exploited in an environment. The assessment can be used to evaluate physical security, personnel (testing through social engineering and such), or system and network security.
While a vulnerability assessment's goal is to identify all vulnerabilities in an environment, apenetration test has the goal of "breaking into the network." So, the team only needs to exploit one or two vulnerabilities to actually penetrate the environment. From here, the goal is to gain administrator or root access on the most critical system in the network, which means that the team "owns" the network and can do anything they would like with the systems and the data on the systems. A penetration test is carried out to emulate what a real hacker would do and it proves to the company that the organization can indeed be penetrated.
Penetration testing is also referred to as ethical hacking, and while it is intriguing and interesting, it is also time consuming.
So, by performing a vulnerability assessment you answer "where are all of our holes?" A penetration test answers "can any of these holes be exploited by hackers?" and a security checklist answers "is this company carrying out proper security practices?"
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