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Difference Between Internal and External Penetration Testing

Penetration testing has evolved to become an essential component of any significant security approach. Organizations sometimes experience cyber attacks on their network or IT infrastructure, leading to detrimental consequences such as data loss, breaches, and unauthorized access to their network systems. But what if organizations or individuals make their security systems stronger? Penetration testing aims to assess the effectiveness of a system’s security controls through the application of various malicious techniques. Performing regular penetration testing helps organizations prevent various malicious attacks.

Difference Between Internal and External Penetration Testing

Table of Contents

What is Penetration Testing?
Benefits of Performing Penetration Testing
Types of Penetration Testing
Difference between Internal and External Penetration Testing

What is Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing is a procedure used in cybersecurity to identify and exploit network or systems vulnerabilities. A Penetration Tester is responsible for conducting penetration testing in an organization. Penetration testing is an important aspect of an organization for finding vulnerabilities.

Benefits of Performing Penetration Testing

Penetration testing is a crucial methodology of any comprehensive security strategy, but its benefits extend far beyond preventing unauthorized access to the system. Some of the advantages are as follows:

1. Improved Compliance: Conducting penetration testing regularly ensures that the organization is secure and compliant with necessary requirements.

2. Improve Security Controls and Posture: Security control and posture is one of the essential components of an organization. It is important to understand security control and its posture effectiveness. Penetration testing provides insight into an organization’s security posture and helps identify any vulnerabilities in its security controls.

3. Improved Overall Security: Penetration testing enables organizations to enhance overall system security by identifying and addressing any vulnerabilities in the security controls.

4. Improved Abilities to Respond to Threats: Penetration testing helps to verify that systems are more resistant to attacks and can resist occurrences. It also enhances risk assessment and mitigation strategies.

Types of Penetration Testing

There are two types of penetration testing: internal and external penetration testing.

1. Internal Penetration Testing

An internal penetration test is performed on an organization’s internal network system to see what kind of damage an attacker could cause once they gain access. It can simulate the effects of insider threats like malicious insiders or hasty insider failures. Internal penetration looks for an organization’s security and finds vulnerabilities where security controls aren’t working well. Authorized professionals within an organization perform internal penetration testing. In internal penetration testing, professionals examine all internal devices like wireless networks, servers, computer systems, other devices, firewalls, IDS/IPS, and even staff behavior and procedures.

Why Perform an Internal Penetration Test?

When we are already conducting external pen tests and taking steps to mitigate external threats, we may wonder why we should also conduct internal penetration tests. But even if your systems are protected, you should know how much damage a malicious attacker could do if they get access to the internal network system.

2. External Penetration Testing

External penetration testing evaluates the exterior security of an organization and recognizes security control vulnerabilities. An external penetration test is just what it sounds like a test that begins outside of the protected environment of a company’s network. Without having any initial access or login credentials, the Penetration Tester is left to their own devices to discover the network and find a way inside of an organization’s cyber defenses. This test aims to determine how well an organization can survive outside cyber-attacks. External penetration testing serves as a crucial means to detect and assess vulnerabilities within an organization’s digital infrastructure, which, if left unaddressed, could render it susceptible to various malevolent activities, including data breaches, ransomware incursions, phishing expeditions, and related detrimental incidents. In external pen testing, different parts of public networks are tested, such as

  • Firewalls
  • FTP servers
  • Network configurations
  • System vulnerabilities
  • Network protocols

Professionals in charge of cybersecurity often do external penetration testing. Some examples are identity management testing, assessing cryptography vulnerabilities, testing authorization and authentication, assessing how well the system handles errors, and many others.

Difference between Internal and External Penetration Testing

Following are the primary differences between internal and external penetration testing.

Internal Penetration Testing External Penetration Testing
  • Internal penetration testing evaluates an organization’s security posture and helps identify security control gaps.
  • External penetration testing looks at the security of the organization’s perimeter and identifies vulnerabilities in its security system.
  • Internal penetration testing is carried out by authorized personnel within an organization.
  • External penetration testing is performed by authorized entities from outside the business organization.

Penetration Testing with InfosecTrain

Network penetration testing is an effective method for evaluating an organization’s security infrastructure and identifying vulnerabilities. Each type of network penetration test has its own set of benefits. If you want to learn more about penetration testing, InfosecTrain offers various security testing training courses that will help you become an expert in advanced penetration testing tools, techniques, and methods.


My name is Pooja Rawat. I have done my B.tech in Instrumentation engineering. My hobbies are reading novels and gardening. I like to learn new things and challenges. Currently I am working as a Cyber security Research analyst in Infosectrain.
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