With cyber-attacks becoming more sophisticated, organizations are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of safeguarding their web applications against security vulnerabilities. One common way of identifying security vulnerabilities is through penetration testing or pen testing.
Pen testing allows organizations to simulate an attack on their web application, identifying areas of weaknesses that could be exploited by a malicious attacker. When done correctly, pen testing is an effective way to detect and remediate security vulnerabilities before they can be exploited.
The Seven Stages of Penetration Testing
There are seven main stages of a complex pen testing process that must be followed in order to effectively assess an application’s security posture:
- Pre-engagement: Before beginning the actual pen testing process, it is important to properly prepare the environment and define objectives. This includes gathering information about the target application, analyzing existing security policies, and determining which types of tests will be performed. The pre-engagement phase involves scoping the project, defining objectives, and obtaining proper authorization to conduct the test.
- Data Gathering: Pen testers collect information about the target application, including architecture, technologies used, potential entry points, and user roles. This stage involves identifying all components of your web application and creating a comprehensive inventory. This includes webpages, databases, APIs, and other server-side components, network mapping, service identification, and fingerprinting. The goal is to gain a comprehensive understanding of the application’s security posture. Once the application and all its components have been identified, it is important to configure it for testing by setting up appropriate user accounts and access control lists (ACL). This ensures that only authorized users have access to sensitive areas of the application.
- Discovery Scanning: The pen testers perform active scanning and reconnaissance to uncover vulnerabilities. This is where the pen test begins in earnest. During this phase, testers will run a series of scans to look for potential vulnerabilities. This includes scanning for common security issues such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting (XSS).
- Vulnerability Assessment: The pen testing team attempts to exploit vulnerabilities it discovered. They employ various tools and techniques to assess the effectiveness of existing security measures and determine potential entry points. This involves testing authentication mechanisms, input validation, and access control. During this phase of the test, testers will also attempt to gain privileged access as a way of further exploring application architecture and identifying potential weaknesses.
- Exploitation: Once access is gained, this stage helps the pen tester determine what further damage an attacker could do within the application. Here testers are able to analyze the extent to which an attacker could compromise the system and maintain control. This includes identifying potential avenues for data exfiltration, such as using web shells or other methods of executing malicious code.
- Reporting and Risk Analysis: After the testing is complete, the testers will generate a full report of their findings. This includes documenting what was discovered during the test and providing an assessment of the application’s security posture. The report can then be used to prioritize remediation efforts, along with recommendations for improving overall security.
- Remediation & Retesting: The final stage involves fixing the identified vulnerabilities and implementing necessary security measures. Once these potential security threats have been identified, they can be addressed by having the development team make changes to the code. Timely remediation ensures that the application is more resilient to potential attacks. Retesting should be conducted to validate the remediation processes and ensure that no new vulnerabilities have been introduced.
The Need for Pen Testing as a Service (PTaaS)
Traditional pen testing delivery often takes weeks to set up and the results are point in time. With the rise of DevOps and cloud technology, traditional once-a-year pen testing is no longer sufficient to ensure continuous security.
To protect against emerging threats and vulnerabilities, organizations need to execute ongoing assessments: continuous application pen testing.
Pen Testing as a Service (PTaaS) offers a more efficient process for proactive and continuous security compared to traditional pen testing approaches.
Organizations are able to access a view into to their vulnerability finding in real time, via a portal that displays all relevant data for parsing vulnerabilities and verify the effectiveness of a remediation as soon as vulnerabilities are discovered.
Making the move to PTaaS streamlines the testing process and delivers ongoing security assessments while providing:
- Efficiency and Automation: leverage automation tools and frameworks to optimize the pen testing process. Automated scans and tests are conducted regularly, ensuring continuous monitoring of web applications for vulnerabilities. This approach eliminates the need for manual intervention in every testing cycle, saving time and resources.
- Seamless Integration: seamlessly integrate with the development lifecycle, eliminating disruptions and delays. It works hand-in-hand with the development team, allowing vulnerabilities to be identified and addressed early in the software development process. By providing one-click fixes for common issues, PTaaS simplifies the remediation process, enabling developers to quickly address vulnerabilities without extensive security expertise.
- Continuous Security Monitoring: maintain continuous security monitoring of web applications. Regular scans and assessments ensure that vulnerabilities are discovered promptly, minimizing the window of opportunity for attackers. This proactive approach enables organizations to address vulnerabilities before they disrupt release schedules or lead to larger security risks.
- Scalability and Flexibility: provides scalability to handle multiple applications and environments simultaneously. Whether an organization has a single web application or a complex infrastructure, PTaaS can adapt to meet their requirements.
- Expertise and Support: gain access to a team of skilled security professionals who specialize in penetration testing. These experts possess in-depth knowledge of the latest attack techniques and methodologies. Their expertise ensures that comprehensive tests are conducted, vulnerabilities are accurately identified, and actionable recommendations are provided for remediation.
- Compliance and Reporting: obtain robust reporting capabilities, delivering detailed insights into the security posture of web applications. Compliance reports can be generated to meet regulatory requirements, making it easier for organizations to demonstrate their commitment to security and compliance standards.
PTaaS provides scalability and flexibility, allowing organizations to securely monitor multiple applications in multiple environments, ensuring that vulnerabilities are identified and addressed before they can be exploited by attackers.
Outpost24’s PTaaS (Pen Test as a Service) solution is a comprehensive and reliable platform that empowers organizations to enhance their web application security.
With Outpost24’s PTaaS, organizations can benefit from continuous security monitoring, proactive vulnerability detection, and streamlined remediation processes.
Start a more efficient and effective approach to web application testing with proactive and continuous security.
Sponsored and written by Outpost24