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Different Types of Cybersecurity Assessments and Their Purpose

People often assume that there is only one type of security assessment that is used to see how secure a system or network is. However, there are many kinds of security assessments and each of them serves a unique purpose. In order to gain a better understanding of each type of assessment, we are going to break down the essential security assessments that are commonly utilized for all types of organizations.


Vulnerability Assessment

Companies of varying sizes and resources utilize vulnerability assessments in order to help them secure their systems. A vulnerability assessment allows a company to identify weaknesses in a system or network which in turn helps them prioritize and remediate. There are many tools out there, both open source and paid solutions, that allow companies to automate the vulnerability assessment process. Some examples of these tools are Qualys, Nessus, and InsightVM.


Penetration Test

Penetration tests are designed to exploit the vulnerabilities found within the vulnerability assessments or newly found vulnerabilities. This type of assessment can be done internally by the organization or externally via a third party. This type of assessment comes in many different forms such as a network penetration test, web application penetration test, physical penetration test, wireless application test, etc. These tests are critical in assessing how easily an attacker could exploit a vulnerability within a company. There are also different approaches to penetration testing including black box, white box, and grey box. A black box test is a penetration test in which the attackers do not have any information about their targets. Conversely, a white box test is where the attackers know a lot about their targets. A grey box penetration test is in the middle of a black and white box where the attackers know a little bit of information about their targets.


Risk Assessment

This type of assessment is important for analyzing the likelihood and impact of a threat exploiting a vulnerability. These assessments are either quantitative or qualitative depending on what the organization chooses to focus on. Typically, with a quantitative risk assessment, the organization is assessing the amount of financial loss a risk could incur. A qualitative risk assessment, on the other hand, utilizes a risk matrix and categorizes risks based on their severity level (determined by the combination of their likelihood and impact).



A security audit is a type of assessment that compares an organization’s existing policies, procedures, and configurations to a legal and regulatory framework, non-regulatory framework, or a security standard. Some common examples of these frameworks include SOX, PCI DSS, GDPR, NIST, and HIPAA. Organizations need to conduct security audits in order to ensure that they are compliant with these regulations and standards in order to abide by the law and to have a better security posture.


While this list doesn’t cover every different type of security assessment, these are definitely some of the most important. Incorporating these assessments into your organization will greatly increase security and will help to outline any weaknesses within the organization.

Written by Blake Potter