Penetration Testing and Vulnerability Scanning Controls for ISO 27001

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18 Jun, 2020

Penetration Testing and Vulnerability Scanning Controls for ISO 27001

Penetration testing has become a necessity for modern-day enterprises. An organization has to remain proactive in finding & fixing vulnerabilities in its systems before the attackers do. In addition to this, more and more laws and regulations now require organizations to implement reasonable security practices to maintain confidentiality, integrity, and availability of their data. While the phrase “reasonable security practices” is a bit ambiguous, proactive cybersecurity exercises such as penetration testing and vulnerability scanning are most likely to be covered under its scope.

In this article, we will be exploring relevant controls for penetration testing and vulnerability scanning in ISO 27001:2013. If you are a cybersecurity professional, ISO/IEC 27001 – Information technology – Security techniques – Information security management systems – Requirements is a standard that does not require any introduction. Initially introduced in 2005 as ISO 27001:2005, the requirements were revised in ISO 27001:2013. Though the new standard is expected to come in 2021, ISO 27001:2013 still holds prominence. Many organizations consider this standard as their first step towards achieving the best possible level of cybersecurity.

ISO 27001:2013 Requirements: Relevant Controls

ISO 27001:2013 has a total of 10 clauses, and its Annexure has 114 controls. For complying with this standard, an organization needs to implement these controls and show sufficient evidence of controls implementation during the external audit. When we discuss penetration testing and vulnerability scanning in the context of ISO 27001, Control A.12.6.1 (Management of technical vulnerabilities) is of particular interest.

The objective of A.12.6 is to prevent the exploitation of technical vulnerabilities. The control statement for A.12.6.1 reads as follows:

Information about technical vulnerabilities of information systems being used shall be obtained in a timely fashion, the organization’s exposure to such vulnerabilities evaluated, and appropriate measures are taken to address the associated risk.

An initial reading of this control statement makes it clear that an organization is expected to maintain a record of technical vulnerabilities in its information systems. This information shall be obtained in a timely manner, and appropriate measures shall be taken based on an organization’s exposure to such vulnerabilities. To understand this further, implementation guidance for this control is available in ISO 27002:2013. We have discussed the implementation guidance in detail here.

How do penetration testing and vulnerability scanning fit into your organization’s ISO 27001 project?

Throughout the implementation of an information security management system, there are many points where penetration testing and vulnerability scanning will have a significant contribution. For example,

  • While assessing the risks, vulnerability scanning will help in uncovering vulnerabilities in your IT ecosystem. A penetration test will support in assessing the extent of possible damages if vulnerabilities are exploited successfully.
  • While treating the identified risks, a penetration test can examine where implemented controls are working as expected or not.
  • In the continual improvement process,
    • Identify new vulnerabilities and mitigate the associated risks, and
    • Ensure that previously implemented controls continue to function.

Even though penetration testing is not explicitly mentioned in the standard, our experts recommend that the most logical phase for performing a penetration test is after the identification of assets for your information security management system. As threats continue to evolve in sophistication, modern-day enterprises must be proactive in conducting regular vulnerability scanning and penetration testing exercises.

How do we help our clients in achieving ISO 27001?

Before starting any testing exercise, we believe that having an open discussion about our client’s requirements is crucial. We follow a methodical approach to promote collaboration between our team and the client team. As a result, the full scope of a testing exercise is agreed upon, and all the systems to be covered are listed. Our experts, with proven domain experience in security testing and legal compliance, begin the testing exercise.

Depending on your technical requirements, the scope of testing includes internal and external penetration tests, grey/white/black box testing, etc. After the tests are completed, we prepare an exhaustive report along with recommendations to help your organization in remediating the vulnerabilities. Our SaaS platform supports all these operations with an inbuilt ticketing system. Once you have applied the fixes, you can request retest to validate the fixes with a click directly from our SaaS platform as an additional measure of assurance.