Internal vs External Penetration Testing – Differences

Internal vs External Penetration Testing – Differences

Phishing attacks on web applications have increased significantly. System hacks are becoming more frequent, and cybercriminals are becoming more active. Therefore, reliable and secure infrastructure is essential to cyber security. Given the increased activity of cybercriminals, who intend to gain access to user data, we recommend that you regularly conduct internal and external penetration tests to identify vulnerabilities and eliminate security weaknesses. Quality web app penetration testing services are very important for security. So, Internal vs External Penetration Testing!

What is network penetration testing?

A network penetration test identifies security vulnerabilities in systems and applications by deliberately using various malicious techniques to assess the security of a network.

This test uses the methods used by hackers to break into the company’s networks, providing technical recommendations for eliminating the vulnerability. The test also demonstrates each vulnerability’s real impact on a company.

Types of network penetration testing

Network penetration testing is divided into two types:

External penetration testing

An external network penetration testing was created to test the effectiveness of perimeter security controls for the timely detection of attacks and to prevent them, as well as to identify weaknesses in resources connected to the Internet: mail and FTP servers and web servers. During the external pen test, the tester conducts surveillance of assets in the scope, collecting data on all purchases in the area: vulnerabilities, open ports, and information about users of the organization for password attacks. When the perimeter is breached successfully, the objectives of the external penetration test are achieved, and testers should make the internal penetration test.

Internal penetration testing

An internal network pen test aims to discover who can get inside the network by hacking the network.

An initial internal network test is performed to see what the hacker can achieve with the initial access to the network. This test can also reflect internal threats: unintentional or deliberate performance of employee criminal acts.

Internal pen testing includes privilege escalation, monitoring, man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks, malware distribution, credential theft, information leakage, or other malicious activities.

The Internal Network Manual Test is designed to evaluate the severity of a potential hacker with access to an internal network. It reflects an attack from within the company, for example, from its employee.

The difference between an external penetration test and an internal penetration test

Penetration tests are also called ethical hacking. These are ways to check for security vulnerabilities in an application or network, devices, wireless systems, etc. Penetration testing can be carried out both externally and internally, depending on the objectives of your project.

The main difference between internal and external penetration testing is the type of attack that is being tested. Internal testing evaluates internal networks and identifies those vulnerabilities that criminals can exploit within the company or its business partners. This testing is also used to determine the spread of malware in internal systems.

An external penetration test is designed to identify vulnerabilities that cyberhackers can exploit on public networks, such as the network used by an application or website. Administrative functions are often the most vulnerable areas. They also include file sharing systems and messaging platforms through which hackers gain access to data.


The money factor is really important. You should definitely do so if you can afford to run both tests. But this is not always realistic for the organization. Therefore, a choice has to be made.

The internal penetration test depends on the number of active devices, hosts, and servers in the internal network. the cost of the test varies from $5,000 to $15,000.

The scope of an external penetration test depends on the number of active hosts on the perimeter, so it typically costs between $3,000 and $8,000. As you can see, internal penetration testing is usually more expensive. Although, of course, the cost is not a key factor. The cost of testing is much less than the consequences of possible hacker attacks.

Expected value

If you’ve never done penetration testing before, it’s worth starting with an external test that can help you identify the main risks. If your company has been running regular penetration tests for at least five years and is aware of the situation, you might want to expand and start looking into your internal network. If your company does not have active hosts around the perimeter, likely, an external penetration test is not too necessary. An internal network is the next step in the maturity of your security program after external penetration testing.

Other types of testing

In addition to External and Internal penetration testing, other types of testing can also be of considerable benefit.

Physical Penetration Testing

This testing simulates a physical breach of your security features by a criminal. For example, testers can pose as delivery workers to infiltrate the office. During this test, it turns out how ready the company is for such a real attack by intruders. It also reveals how to connect a device for injecting malware to a computer to connect to your network.

Social Engineering Testing

This type of penetration testing evaluates the ability of a company’s personnel to disclose private information. The tester attempts to gain the trust of people in the company by tricking them into sharing personal data or doing things that reveal key company data to a white hat tester, who could be a criminal in the future.

Phishing emails are a prime example of such a hack. A cybercriminal can impersonate a company manager using a similar email address and ask a company employee to share personal data: reveal a password, for example, or even transfer money. Tester activity data allows you to determine your employees’ readiness for a real hacker attack.

Application Penetration Testing

This type of testing allows you to assess vulnerabilities in applications. The tester analyzes the user’s design, development, features of the application, and so on. In addition, the evaluators look for various flaws in the security protocol. Testing should be carried out frequently, as hacking methods are constantly being improved.

Wireless Penetration Testing

Anyone in the vicinity of a company’s wireless Internet connection can “eavesdrop” on wireless traffic by exploiting a vulnerability in the network. This testing is designed to prevent an organization from becoming a victim of wireless network security breaches. Moreover, even novice hackers can access data, as there are special modern devices. Wireless Pentest helps you secure your Wi-Fi and wireless protocols and devices.


External and internal penetration is extremely important as they help to identify security weaknesses in the network and, as a result, can bring long-term security dividends to the entire organization. However, suppose such controlled hacks are not carried out. In that case, hackers can use vulnerabilities in the system to gain access to sensitive data, cause significant harm, sometimes reach huge sums of money, and cause loss of the company’s reputation. Therefore, regular penetration testing will help an organization stay on top and be immune to hacker attacks and all external threats.


What is internal penetration testing?

The Internal Infrastructure Penetration Test, “Inside Pen Test,” focuses on testing attacks a cybercriminal could carry out. This test checks whether the hacker will gain control over the infrastructure.

What is external penetration testing?

External penetration tests are an assessment to identify perimeter security systems in an organization.

What are the 3 phases of penetration testing?

The penetration testing process includes pre-engagement, engagement, and post-engagement phases.

What is the difference between security testing and penetration testing?

A penetration test involves simulating attacks to identify vulnerabilities. And cyber security includes technologies designed to prevent cyberattacks.

External pen testing or internal pen testing? What to choose?

Both tests help address security vulnerabilities and ultimately allow a company to secure itself against hacker attacks. Of course, these tests differ in price, the goal to be achieved, and the explored area. But both tests are very important to protect against sensitive data hackers and yourself from hacking.