According to current cybersecurity reports, over 25,000 websites are infiltrated every day, and every 39 seconds, a new attack Is attempted. A RedScan study on vulnerability trends implies that 50 new vulnerabilities were reported every day in 2020. We could continue on and on; the cyber threats statistics are not just mind-boggling but scary.
With the rising cases of cyber-attack, more than ever before, the digital world requires efficient penetration testing services and methods that would simulate attacks in real-time and can easily be updated to reflect newer attack approaches and vulnerabilities, thereby forestalling real attacks.
Penetration testing can be performed manually, automatically, or by a combination of both. Our interest in this post is automated penetration testing, its benefits, applicability, and ability in protecting against cyber-attacks and vulnerabilities.
What is automated penetration testing?
It is often expected that internet-based services and platforms conduct penetration tests to assure their system’s security and sustain a minimum standard of quality assurance and quality user experience. This is executed by deliberately hacking or manipulating the system to examine the security level and examine if any existing vulnerabilities may be a vehicle of exploitation.
Usually, these penetration tests are conducted by pen test professionals with the assistance of other specialists. This test method is now known as manual penetration testing. The long duration and acute attention needed in manual testing became too stressful and time-consuming. This directed to the development of automated tools and procedures to make pen testing more effective.
In summary, automated network penetration testing utilizes automated tools and the adoption of automated processes to execute pen tests. For instance, rather than going through lines of codes to examine for errors, a scanner can be deployed to scan through the codes in a short time.
How it works
In automated pen-testing, digital tools and software accomplish the tasks human testers would have normally done. These tools reflect a tester’s action or a user’s action depending on the test needs. When prompted for execution, the auto tool connects to the network system and examines the infrastructure by conducting a general scan.
The scan directs the tool to its range of duty. Of course, one tool or test program may not handle all the test requirements; you may need to deploy various tools with various functions for different test purposes.
For example, assume an automated tool is developed to check the GUI and frontend user function. In that matter, the tool, after a general scan, begins to probe the necessary details as it affects the GUI and user function like logging in. After which, a relative attack or exploitation (like a brute force attack) is affected.
Pentest auto tools are developed to work as intruding agents using the most recent hack methods, but their behavioral delivery is in a human tester mode. They are developed to act like a human tester would usually do using the same metrics and steps.
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Benefits of automated pen testing
Automated penetration testing grants numerous benefits to a tester or organization. Here are a few described below.
- Saves time: Timing continues to be one of the arguments favoring automatic testing; in fact, it is not an argument but a fact. Automated tools decrease the penetration testing time frame by a significant boundary. In the same vein, reports are collected almost instantly after a test is executed. This is available with manual testing; in some cases, a compilation of reports may take some days to weeks manual testing.
- Executes multiple tests at the same time: One major benefit of automation testing is multi-tasking. An automated test tool can run two tests at the same time. Unlike manual tests, where the tester has to concentrate on one aspect per time to avoid errors.
- Promotes the correct test frequency: Automated tools function such that a test can be replicated as frequently needed, sometimes multiple times a day. This allows testers to always be on top of security and vulnerability issues within the system. Also, you can always verify the efficiency of functionalities as soon as a change is included in the system.
- Eliminates stress and increases productivity: With automated testing, testers and developers are less stressed and can focus their energy on other projects and tasks that need human attention or be on the lookout for more sophisticated intervention.
- Easily updatable: You can quickly update many automatic tools to reflect recent pen-testing procedures and identify newer intrusion models. This is possible by an OTA update made available by the developers or by downloading updates scripts. It may need a human tester more time to get informed with recent knowledge in the pen testing field.
Checklist for automated penetration testing
Here are a few things to consider before using an automated tool for your penetration testing.
- Identify your test needs
The first thing to do is to identify what kind of test you require to execute on your system and to what degree the test should be carried out; this should depend on the use and requirement of the system. The test needed for an internet banking platform, for example, would undoubtedly vary and may necessitate a more rigorous process than that needed for a school portal.
- Identify test methods
The next thing is to recognize the appropriate test method that best suits your requirements. It may be automated, manual, or a mixture of both.
- Schedule a test date
Draft up a timeline for your testing activity. Frequently, penetration testing would need to engage in various activities over some time. To match your time target and not overstress the system, it is most beneficial to schedule testing activities.
- Identify the appropriate test tools
There are various automated tools by various developers in the market for penetration testing; some may be extra sophisticated than others. Some offer various services from others, and some tools may be particular to certain operating systems. The ideal thing is to obtain a tool based on your unique requirements and your system’s structure.
- Determine the required test frequency
It is also necessary to determine the required test frequency; this could be an industry model or a professional choice. Whichever one, discovering a periodic retest time and sticking to it is essential.
- Prepare the resources to store and record results
This is a very significant part of a penetration test; you need to have reports of test results for the present. These reports could also function as a guide in the future.
Although we have highlighted the benefits and characteristics of automatic pen testing, we do not discredit or disapprove of manual penetration testing. Manual testing still has a great role in pen testing as the automatic alternative is still restricted in scope and applicability. But the quickness and recurrence of cyber-attacks in current times requires a faster pen testing procedure that automation offers.
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