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Pentesting

29 March, 2022


Automated Penetration Testing, Manual, or Both? -- What works best? 

It is imperative for every organization to test its cybersecurity controls regularly. When it comes to understanding the threats imposed by modern-day hackers, it is nearly impossible to grasp without a thorough assessment of the security controls put in place – that’s where pen testing comes in. 

Let’s first understand – what exactly IS penetration testing? 

Penetration Testing, often known as Pen Testing, is understood differently by different organizations and professionals. “Pen testing” is a form of ethical hacking performed through automated machines or by highly skilled security research professionals (also known as ethical hackers) who can be considered “the good guys.” These good guys (or girls) are tasked with hacking into an organization’s digital environment as if they are simulating a real-life cyber-attack. Penetration testing exposes the weak points, commonly referred to as vulnerabilities, within a digital asset (i.e., Web application, mobile application, internal network, external network, API, etc.)   

To maximize the comprehensiveness of the findings of a penetration test, pen tests need to be well executed to maximize business context and pave the way for effective prioritization of remediation efforts upon pen test completion. Even if an organization has not necessarily thrown caution to the wind with a total lack of cybersecurity measures in place, it is common for pre-existing cyber controls to become outdated and ineffective over time as cybersecurity threats evolve. Having penetration testing done regularly ensures that an organization stays one step ahead of the evolution of these threats by self-testing its defense.  

Automated vs. Manual Pen Testing – What’s the difference? 

Simply told, automated penetration testing is done by machines, while manual penetration testing is done by humans, but each method has its pros and cons. Additionally, let’s not overlook the newly introduced hybrid approach to Pen Testing (PTaaS).  

Considering that automated pen testing is done by machines, it is a generally high speed, scalable, lower cost than manual pen testing, and returns an abundance of vulnerability findings. While automated pen testing brings the advantages of speed and scalability, it also has its pitfalls, including a lack of business context & customizability, a high number of false positives, and it takes a ‘one size fits all approach.  

Additionally, just subscribing to the tools/machines alone isn’t enough – skilled cybersecurity professionals are needed to run these tools effectively. Consequently, these disadvantages make it difficult to prioritize vulnerabilities during the remediation process, negatively affecting the ROI of automated pen testing efforts despite its lower cost in comparison to manual penetration testing.  

Manual penetration testing, executed by human testers, is done in alignment with business context, returns highly accurate findings, and allows organizations to use these to utilize these advantages to easily prioritize remediation efforts.  

With these advantages in mind, manual pen testing is also relatively time-consuming, unscalable, costly in comparison to automated pen testing, and requires an elevated level of knowledge and skill from ethical hackers. Overall, manual pen testing can be more tailored to an organization’s needs but takes longer to onboard and realize value. 
 

Which is “better?”

All considered, determining which method of pen testing is better comes down to a case-by-case need-based approach. If an organization is looking to do a quick scan and has the internal resources to sort through a seemingly endless pool of findings and false positives, that is their prerogative. However, manual testing has an edge with its ability to apply business context to both the penetration test itself and reporting the findings, something that (for now) can only be done by humans.  

The simplest answer to our question is this… 

“There is no true alternative to including human intelligence in penetration testing.”  
 
Now imagine a model that leverages both the scalability and speed of the automated Pen Test in unison with human intelligence and business context – the best of both worlds. This is exactly what Penetration Testing as a Service (PTaaS) is. PTaaS, takes advantage of every benefit of both manual penetration testing and automated penetration testing while leaving their detriments behind, making it nothing but fast, simple, and comprehensive Penetration Testing at Scale. BreachLock’s PTaaS generated Pen Test report is also accepted by auditors for compliance and third-party assurance testing. 

How BreachLock can help you stay one step ahead of your next cyber-attack: 

BreachLock PTaaS combines Artificial Intelligence (AI), Automation, and Human Ingenuity to deliver Fast, Simple, Comprehensive Penetration Testing at scale to meet all the security testing requirements of an enterprise. PTaaS can help you meet your compliance, vendor assessments, and DevOps security requirements at ease. PTaaS doesn’t only provide just automated tools or human led service but it offers outcome-based Penetration Testing that helps organizations in effectively managing their Security Posture.  

Contact BreachLock here to learn more about how BreachLock can help you stay ahead.  

Visit BreachLock’s PTaaS FAQ page to learn more. 

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