We’re often asked what’s the difference between an Ethical Hacker and Penetration Tester. So we thought we’d provide an explanation…
These two titles are often used interchangeably, but they do have distinct differences.
Penetration testing is a process which identifies security vulnerabilities, flaws risks, and unreliable environments. It can be seen as a way to successfully penetrate a specific information system without causing any damage. It essentially mimics what cyber criminals would attempt, and anticipates how the system could be compromised.
Organizations conduct pen tests to strengthen their corporate defense systems. This includes all computer systems and associated infrastructure. While penetration testing can help organizations improve their cybersecurity, it’s best to be proactive before trouble arises. Pen testing should be performed on a regular basis, since cyber criminals are constantly finding new weak points in emerging systems, programs, and applications. A pen test may not provide comprehensive security answers for your corporation, it will significantly minimize the possibility of a successful attack.
Ethical hacking is a broader term that includes all hacking methods, and other related cyber attack methods. The goal of ethical hacking is still to identify vulnerabilities and fix them before they can be exploited by criminals, but the approach is much wider in scope than pen testing. In other words, ethical hacking is more of an umbrella term, while penetration testing represents one subset of all ethical hacking techniques.
Some people disagree with hacking being considered “ethical,” even if the approach is used to proactively identify and fix corporate security flaws. Still, the term “ethical hacker” is growing in popularity, as cybersecurity is becoming more and more crucial for organizations. In addition, the demand for job candidates with cyber security certifications is growing significantly.
Here’s a quick summary of the difference between Penetration Testing and Ethical Hacking:
|Penetration Testing||Ethical Hacking|
|Performs cyber security assessment on specific IT systems||Assesses all system security flaws through many hacking approaches, in which penetration testing is only one feature|
|A tester needs to have knowledge and skills in the specific area for which they are testing||An ethical hacker needs to possess a wide and thorough knowledge of programming and hardware techniques|
|Certification can be bypassed if a candidate has sufficient experience||Ethical Hacking certification is usually required|
|Access is required only to systems on which the pen testing will be conducted||Access is required to a wide range of computer systems throughout an IT infrastructure|
Source: InfoSec Institute.