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External vs. Internal Network Penetration Testing

The best way to ensure the safety of your organization’s network is to have a complete, 360-degree view of your cybersecurity structure. Therefore, you must determine the strength of your security with both external and internal testing on your cybersecurity network.

What is Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing, also known as a pen test, identifies and helps address cybersecurity vulnerabilities. It identifies vulnerabilities hackers can exploit by simulating a cyber attack against your organization’s network.

Where do Cybersecurity Threats Come From?

Cybersecurity threats come from both inside and outside the organization. Therefore, your organization must be alert and observe all aspects of your network. Obtain a complete view from both the inside and outside of your network to ensure you are fully protecting your organization from cyber threats.

External Threats

External threats to your cybersecurity network are the risks of someone outside of the company who exploits vulnerabilities in your system. These external threats include:

  • Malicious software
  • Hacking
  • Sabotage
  • Social engineering

To manage external cybersecurity threats, your organization must combat the external threat. You must prevent and mitigate the external threat with your cybersecurity strategy. This is because organizations cannot observe the perpetrator of an external threat.

Internal Threats

On the flip side, internal threats are easier to monitor by watching your employees or raising awareness amongst your organization’s staff. Internal threats include,:

  • Malicious insiders
  • Negligent employees
  • Unauthorized use of third-party software
  • Use of unauthorized devices
  • Theft of company devices

Internal threats are harder to avoid because they are usually done by people who already have access to your network. Therefore, an effective and fast response plan is necessary to minimize damages caused by internal threats.

Why Should You Use Penetration Testing?

With penetration testing, you can find more errors and vulnerabilities within your system. To understand how hackers are entering your system, you must find which parts they are able to take advantage of. Furthermore, with penetration testing, employees within your organization will be more prepared for a cyber attack. By enacting a penetration test, employees will learn how they should react when a cyber attack occurs.

Furthermore, after completing a pen test, your organization will gain valuable insights regarding the security and other IT information related to your digital network. With this information, your organization will have an easier time preventing and minimizing damaged caused by cyber threats.

Finally, completing a pen test also helps gain the trust of your organization’s clients because it shows that your organization is actively working on and implementing strategies to ensure the safety and security of your organization’s information and data.

Types of Cybersecurity Penetration Testing

There are six main types of penetration testing:

  • External Network Penetration Testing
  • Internal Network Penetration Testing
  • Social Engineering Testing
  • Physical Penetration Testing
  • Wireless Penetration Testing
  • Application Penetration Testing

While all six penetration testing will help identify vulnerabilities and improve your cybersecurity network, the most commonly used testing are the external and internal network penetration testing methods.

External Network Penetration Testing

Many companies across various markets use external penetration tests to evaluate their external security strength. Penetration testing is a solution for organizations that do not have the internal resources to identify vulnerabilities on their own. The testing is usually performed on an already implemented application, and the test results provide only a “slice” at a specific timeframe. This does not reveal all existing vulnerabilities in the organization’s security network.

In this method, the pen tester looks at your organization’s publicly available information and uses the vulnerabilities found in this information to gain access to your organization’s network. With external pen testing, the organization can find vulnerabilities in the system and fix these holes, thus preventing any actual external hacking from occurring.

Internal Network Penetration Testing

With internal penetration testing, the pen tester acts as a “malicious insider” who hacks into the system using the insider’s level of access. By acting as an insider, the pen tester exposes how insiders threaten the safety and security of the organization’s information.

Internal pen testing are done to determine what assets are at risk and how hackers might target these assets. Through pen testing, your organization will understand what vulnerabilities hackers can take advantage of, what security measures are and are not working, and how quickly the hacker can obtain the organization’s confidential information. Based on the vulnerability results found through internal pen testing, your organization can minimize damage with a response plan.

Drawbacks of External and Internal Tests

However, both approaches have drawbacks because vulnerabilities are identified at later stages of development or during the implementation and operating stages. The later the vulnerabilities are found, the heavier the costs are to fix these vulnerabilities. As a result, most plans following a pen test are related to how the organization can minimize the damage caused by a cyber threat.

These vulnerabilities often form because the development of the application does not involve the security specialists. Therefore, vulnerability management processes in enterprise applications should ensure interaction of all groups of specialists at different stages of the software cycle.

This approach requires a specialized solution or set of solutions that implements various methods and techniques applicable to the business applications developed and used in the organization. It requires organizations to comply with security standards to ensure the security of enterprise applications. While the process appears to be longer and requires more staffs, this approach will make your vulnerability management process more effective and decrease your overall costs.


While both penetration tests have their disadvantages, they are still vital to your organization’s network security. By completing a pen test, your organization reduces the risk of direct financial losses that may occur if hackers took advantage of the vulnerabilities that were not found. Ensure all your cybersecurity systems are updated by performing these pen tests at least once a year. This will ensure your cyber network has minimal holes that hackers can taken advantage of.

Cybersecurity is a continuous process with many different complex components and contest. Therefore, approach and assess with various methods to ensure you can obtain a complete overview of your cyber network.

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