Accredited Penetration Testing: Is it worth it?

Accredited network penetration testing

Network penetration testing that is accredited, often called ethical hacking, is crucial for identifying vulnerabilities and security flaws in a network’s infrastructure, applications, and systems. Attackers could exploit these vulnerabilities to gain unauthorised access, steal sensitive data, disrupt services, or cause other types of damage.

By simulating real-world attacks, accredited network penetration testing helps organisations to do the following:

  • Assess Their Security Posture: Understand the current state of their cybersecurity defences.
  • Identify Weaknesses and Prioritise Remediation Efforts: Determine which vulnerabilities need immediate attention.
  • Ensure Compliance with Regulatory Requirements: Meet legal and industry standards.
  • Improve Incident Response Capabilities: Identify potential attack scenarios and recommend mitigating or preventing them.

Network penetration testing is essential for proactively managing cybersecurity risks and protecting valuable assets and data from cyber threats.

Accredited Network Penetration Testing

Internal Penetration Testing

Internal penetration testing simulates an attack from within the organisation’s network, typically from a trusted location such as an employee’s computer. The goal is to identify vulnerabilities an attacker could exploit with insider access. This type of test reveals weaknesses that internal threats or compromised insider accounts could exploit.

External Penetration Testing

External penetration testing simulates an attack from outside the organisation’s network, typically from the internet. The objective is to identify vulnerabilities that external attackers could exploit. This type of test helps identify security gaps that could be targeted by cybercriminals who do not have authorised access to the network.

Combined Approach

Combining internal and external penetration testing provides a comprehensive view of an organisation’s security posture. This approach helps identify vulnerabilities that might be missed by focusing on only one type of test, thereby offering a better understanding of overall risks and improving security defences.

Customised Penetration Testing

Organisations can choose from several penetration tests, each focusing on network, web application, mobile application, wireless, social engineering, red teaming, or physical penetration testing. A customised approach allows organisations to address their specific needs and risks. However, some types of testing, such as social engineering or physical penetration testing, may require additional legal or ethical considerations.

Manual vs Automated Penetration Testing

Both manual and automated penetration testing have their advantages and disadvantages. The best approach depends on the organisation’s specific needs and the complexity of the systems or applications being tested. Combining both methods often yields the best results.

Manual Penetration Testing

Manual testing involves running commands and processes simultaneously, which can be time-consuming and expensive. It offers:

  • Customisability to meet specific organisational needs
  • Creative thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Subjectivity in results
  • Limited scalability, which can be challenging for large organisations with complex systems

Automated Penetration Testing

Automated testing uses software to run multiple commands simultaneously, offering:

  • Reduced overhead and labour reliance
  • Faster testing at a lower cost
  • Conversion of manual techniques into code
  • Scalability to assess entire networks without limitations
  • Consistency in replicating attacks documented in the MITRE ATT&CK framework
  • Maintenance of regulatory compliance with quick reporting turnaround times

Benefits of Automated Penetration Testing

Automated penetration testing provides several advantages, including:

  • Faster and more cost-effective testing
  • Comprehensive network assessment
  • Elimination of scheduling hassles and reporting delays
  • Adequate technical and strategic remediation reports
  • Less than three-week reporting turnaround time

Automated Penetration Testing Report Deliverables

This type of automated penetration testing typically includes the following reports:

  • Executive Report: High-level summary of penetration test and vulnerability assessment findings by severity rating, including remediation strategies.
  • Technical Report: Detailed mapping of tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to the MITRE ATT&CK framework, a narrative of each step of the pen test, and findings with recommendations and supporting evidence.
  • Vulnerability Report: Comprehensive list of discovered vulnerabilities, threat severity rankings, descriptions, CVSS scores, recommendations, affected nodes, and supporting evidence.

By leveraging manual and automated penetration testing, UK organisations can robustly protect their networks and systems from potential cyber threats, ensuring they remain compliant with regulatory standards and prepared against possible attacks.

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