Systematic Penetration Testing is the only way to be a step ahead of hackers, so it is worth spending money on. But there are thousands of companies offering penetration tests. You need to decide what exactly you want from the penetration testing services and to whom you are willing to entrust access to your business’s valuable data. These people could enter your system and get access to customer information, sensitive company research, and other confidential data. Your task here is to select those whom you can trust.
Decide what type of pentest you need.
Prepare to find a vendor and try to understand what types of pentest exist and which one you need. First, decide what exactly you need to test. Mostly, penetration testing vendors divide their services into the following scope of work:
- Web Application penetration testing.
- Internal penetration test/network penetration testing.
- External penetration test.
- Mobile Application assessment.
- Internet of Things (IoT) Security assessment.
- Social Engineering.
The second thing you need to choose is a penetration testing method. It means what scope of access you are ready to share with ethical hackers.
- White box testing – is an internal testing method. It shows the customer how much destruction an authorized user may cause. The main feature of an inside attack simulation is that clients provide vendors with full access to the network infrastructure schematics, source code, and IP addresses. Testing might include security code review.
- Grey box testing – is a testing method where ethical hackers get only partial access to the targeted system. Having such access, pentesters can behave like an attacker with long-term staying in the network. Clients provide pentesters with the internal account. Pentesters also get a few elevated privileges. The testing results show if the organization is well-protected from the inside and how easy it is for the hacker to gain access to the critical data. Testers check the security policies and check security in network design.
- Black box testing – is blind testing. It is a method when ethical hackers have about network structure and protection, security policies, or software. This method is a simulation of the situation when there is an external threat. The first task for ethical hackers here is to come inside the target system – test the line of external defense. After getting inside, pentesters try to move forward, getting more and more accessible.
Tips on how to choose the most appropriate penetration testing vendor
- Find out a vendor experience.
To be sure of possible vendor reliability, you need to get the opinion of someone from the outside. You can look at their list of clients and their overall reputation.
Check customers’ testimonials – they will show you the accurate picture. Search for ratings and reviews on Clutch, Gartner, and G2.
- Check the certification
The first improvement of pentesters’ education and professionalism is certification. All top certificates for pentesters are OSCP, OSCE, CEH, CCNE, MCP, GIAC, and others. One more factor you should check is how long the vendor has been on the market and their experience working with different industries and environments. This ensures that pentesters know what they are doing. The most important for ethical hackers is to use real-world attack knowledge gained from Incident Response Engagements of advanced persistent threats (APTs) and attacker behavior.
After checking testers’ certifications, find their Github, research, and scroll blogs. Any professional pentesting\ cybersecurity company will usually contribute a great deal to the security community.
- Manual and automated testing
Make sure not to buy vulnerability scans instead of penetration testing. A vulnerability scan isn’t as effective as a penetration test. A well-performed penetration test must include the combination of several tools and manual techniques.
Ethical hackers provide manual pentests and can simulate the attacker’s behavior and industry trends and use various attack vectors. While automated tools quickly detect particular vulnerabilities, they cannot detect all. So an experienced attacker could get into the network. Also, automated tools are prone to getting false positives.
- Is there remediation testing included?
It would be best for you if you are looking for a vendor that offers the option of retesting. Retesting is performed after you have enhanced the security systems using the results you receive after the penetration test. First, you need a remediation assessment to confirm that all flaws are fixed and your security systems can effectively defend against various malicious hacking attempts. Second, after remediation, you’ll get a cleaner final report.
- Make sure you’ll get proper documentation.
Ask your potential vendor what their reports consist of. The full-fledged report includes:
- Executive Summary. It is a general security assessment, which might vary from A (Excellent) to F (Inadequate), giving high-level recommendations. The vendor provides you with the categorization of threats and explains their influence on your business and potential consequences.
- The technical report must include evidence and artifacts. These videos and screenshots allow your IT and Development teams to recreate penetration testers’ findings later.
- Compliance requirements. You need some improvement in your security level to show to your client. Compliance requirements are a letter of attestation and might be a listing on a “verified list” of the vendor’s website, etc.
- Suppose the vendor works not just to give you a certification. In that case, they provide the customers with tactical recommendations for immediate improvement and longer-term recommendations for enhancement of the cybersecurity posture. The security team might advise proper solutions and give tips according to the investigation experience.
A good penetration testing team will show you the pain points in your business, and you will see how far a hacker can penetrate your organization and to what data get access. It will rob you of a false sense of security and give you a safe outside, a fresh perspective, and new insights to bolster your security.
Mainly, businesses buy a pentest service to validate industry standards and regulatory requirements ( like HIPAA, GDPR, SEC, CMMC). But try not to think just about requirements and take the most benefits of penetration testing. It is a proactive approach to cybersecurity that allows you to protect yourself before suffering a devastating breach.