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Beginner’s Guide to Automated Penetration Testing Process

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If you’re a business owner, then chances are that information security is a big concern to you, as it should be. There may be a lot of sensitive data on your computers and servers that could negatively impact the company’s reputation if it were to fall into the wrong hands. You can’t afford to lose everything when hackers strike, which means online penetration testing is going to play an important role in determining how seriously you take your security.

There are different ways you can carry out this process. Automated, Manual, or Hybrid. Automated penetration testing, for obvious reasons, is the most common type of pentesting. It is faster, saves up on cost and is more efficient, however, only if used appropriately. We are gonna talk about what this process includes and whether you should turn to automated pentesting for securing your business.

What is Automated Penetration Testing?

The process of automating penetration testing by using tools, scripts, etc. to simulate the exploitation of security vulnerabilities is known as Automated Penetration Testing. These tools can be used to scan systems for known weaknesses, exploit them and then report on the findings.

Pros and Cons of Automated Penetration Testing

Automated pentesting has both advantages and disadvantages that should be considered before you make a decision on whether or not to use it.

The Pros:

  • Faster – Can find more vulnerabilities than manual testing
  • More efficient – Doesn’t require human interaction, so less chance for mistakes
  • Automated – Requires little to no maintenance
  • Scalable – Can be used for large or small systems
  • Cost-effective – Can be used to test many systems at once

The Cons:

  • Limited scope – Automated tools can only do what they’re programmed to do. They may very well fail at finding all the vulnerabilities that are present in the system.
  • Can be expensive – Depending on the tools used, automated pentesting can be more costly than manual testing since some tools require licenses.
  • Requires a higher level of technical expertise – Not all automated pentesting tools are user friendly and may require a certain level of expertise to be able to use them and interpret the results properly.
  • Susceptible to false positives – Results may not be accurate if the automated tool is not configured correctly.

Phases of Automated Penetration Testing

No matter what automated pentesting tools are used, there is a standard set of steps that must be carried out in order for the process to be done well and considered complete. Remember to always test in a controlled environment, such as on a copy of the production network.

Steps for Automated Penetration Testing:

  1. Reconnaissance – Locate hosts, identify services and gather as much information as you can about the target systems and their environments.
  2. Scanning – Identify open ports on the target system, determine service versions and find existing vulnerabilities/misconfigurations. Tools such as Astra Security Scanner, Nmap, Burp Suite, etc. can be used for scanning to speed up the VAPT process.
  3. Exploitation – Using automated tools or scripts to attempt to exploit identified vulnerabilities.
  4. Reporting – Generating a report of the findings from the pentesting process.

Who Needs Automated Penetration Testing?

Any business that has data that needs to be protected should consider automated pentesting. However not every business needs automated pentesting. Businesses that require automated security testing of their networks and applications and already have a large amount of technical expertise on staff, as well as the budget to support such an endeavour, would benefit the most from automated pentesting.

The Importance of Automating the Penetration Testing Process

Penetration testing is a critical role in determining how seriously you take your security. It’s always recommended to get automated penetration testing done before manual pentesting because automated tools can be used at scale and are faster than manual tests, but only if they’re configured correctly.

Difference Between Automated and Manual Pentesting

Automated and manual pentesting are two very different approaches to penetration testing. While automated tools can be used to do some of the same tasks as manual pentesting, they cannot be used interchangeably.

The difference between automated penetration testing vs manual penetration testing is that automated tests will only scan for known vulnerabilities while in manual testing a human tester performs tests to find known and unknown vulnerabilities or attack vectors that may have been missed by automated tools.

Can Automated Penetration Testing Replace Humans?

While automated tools are becoming more advanced, they cannot replace humans completely when it comes to pentesting needs. There is just no substitute for “thinking” like a hacker and putting that into practice in order to truly test systems properly.

Is Automated Penetration Testing Enough?

The automated pentesting process should be an integral part of your security testing program but it should not be your only line of defence. You still need to have human pentesters performing manual penetration tests on your systems. By using automated pentesting tools in conjunction with manual pentesting, you can get the most accurate results.

Conclusion

Not every business needs automated pentesting, but businesses that have a lot of data to protect and want to be sure they’re doing everything they can to find vulnerabilities should consider it. Automated pentesting is not perfect, but it’s a great way to scale your penetration testing process and help you find more vulnerabilities than manual testing alone.

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