Automated penetration testing tools

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29 Apr, 2021

Automated penetration testing tools

Our clients often ask whether they should go for automated or manual penetration testing. The ideal recommendation is to follow a mixed approach. Absolute reliance on either of the methods can have a fair share of disadvantages. For example, manual penetration testing is time-consuming, and your team will not be utilizing the benefits of automated tools. In rapid development environments, this can directly impact your time to market. On the other hand, automated testing may leave you with a lot of false positives. Automated tools can help in cutting down costs and overall time required to perform a test.

Is automated penetration testing beneficial?

Penetration testing teams adopt an attacker-like mindset for simulating real-life attacks. Certain parts of the penetration testing process can be automated to minimize the total time required. Consider that you have a network of 30 computer systems. If a team of penetration testers has to perform vulnerability scans on each of these systems, it can take up to 2-3 days. Instead of manual tests, they can utilize a vulnerability scanner to launch vulnerability scans across the network. An ideal vulnerability scanner will arrange using a consistent and managed approach. Some apparent benefits of using automated penetration testing tools are:

    • Scheduling automated scans at intervals such as daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.
    • Reducing the average time taken to detect vulnerabilities
    • Parallel scanning of multiple systems against thousands of vulnerabilities
    • Allowing your team to focus on advanced vulnerabilities with the negligible time required for false positives
    • Fulfilling compliance requirements where regulations or standards require scanning of specific IT assets

However, organizations should exercise caution when they seek to automate parts of their penetration testing exercises. Automation should not change the tactics employed by the penetration testing team. Or in other words, you should not automate something that an attacker would never do in real life. At present, automation can be utilized for:

    • Sniffing traffic
    • Detecting vulnerabilities in code
    • Detecting vulnerabilities in the runtime environment
    • Testing various exploits
    • Executing a full attack life cycle for a particular type of attack

Recommended automated penetration testing tools for your security team

A penetration testing team’s toolkit should have sufficient tools to cover your entire network and connected devices. The objective behind selecting tools should be maximum automation with minimal manual intervention, at the same time, without compromising the accuracy of the results. The first tool in your toolkit should be a network scanning tool for streamlined vulnerability management for networks. You can use tools such as Acunetix and Nessus. Acunetix comes with automated network scanning capability, and its vulnerability database consists of over 50,000 known vulnerabilities and misconfiguration issues.

These tools can be supported by other tools such as Nmap, Nikto, and Wireshark. Nmap is a network mapping tool that certainly does not need an introduction if you are a security professional. Nikto relies on rapid testing for recognizing suspicious behavior on your network. Wireshark is an open-source tool for analyzing packets across a network.

The second set of tools will be related to websites and web applications. In 2020, it is close to impossible that your company does not have a website. Your organization may have a website with multiple web applications. Here, you need an efficient web scanner for probing vulnerabilities in your web applications. Well-known open-source tools for scanning web applications include Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP), Vega, and Grabber. Acunetix and Nessus can also act as web application scanners for your organization. Burp Suite Professional is another name that you can consider.

After selecting these tools, your toolkit must have the Metasploit Framework (MSF) for attempting to exploit the identified vulnerabilities. It is an open-source framework with thousands of tried and tested exploits.

How does BreachLock help?

In our experience of working with clients across industries, we have come to an understanding that security testing is often a complicated exercise. Using multiple tools often gives overlapping results that lead to confusion and lack of efficiency. We provide an easy-to-consume SaaS model for our clients to cover their entire IT infrastructure. BreachLock SaaS platform allows you to configure scans and order tests in a few clicks. Our platform combines machine power with human expertise for maximum efficiency. Schedule a discovery call with our experts today!