A penetration test, commonly known as “pentest”, is a simulated attack performed for the purpose of detecting security issues. During a pentest, white hat testers search for attack vectors they can exploit to breach the network. The goal is to identify and fix security issues that would have been otherwise left undetected.
Penetration Testing as a Service (PTaaS) is a service that provides cloud-based resources for performing continuous and point-in-time penetration tests. Organizations use PTaaS to create effective vulnerability management programs that enable them to quickly locate, prioritize, and mitigate security threats.
How PTaaS Works
In the past, pentesting results were provided at the end of the testing stage. The insights gained from the test were helpful but somewhat outdated, and did not allow for an accurate prioritization of remediation. Today, cloud computing and automation technologies are making it possible to deliver and gain continuous, reliable, real-time testing insights.
An automated pentest delivered as Software as a Service (SaaS), for example, enables you to view real time insights via dashboards. The interface displays simple visualizations of relevant data, before, during, and after a pentesting process.
PTaaS is offered as a delivery platform, providing more capabilities than SaaS-based pentesting. The majority of platforms are scalable and can suit the needs of various business types and sizes. It is often possible to customize reporting and processes to accommodate heavy compliance requirements. Typically, a PTaaS vendor provides:
- Resources for parsing vulnerabilities
- Resources for validating remediation efforts
- A knowledge base that helps remediate security issues
- Support and help from white hat testers
Penetration Testing as a Service Pros and Cons
PTaaS comes with distinct advantages and disadvantages. The majority of disadvantages are typical to any third-party limitations and data compliance. However, for organizations looking for a resource for proactive and continuous monitoring and remediation, PTaaS has much value.
5 Benefits of PTaaS
1. Monthly billing
Penetration Testing as a Service is typically charged as a monthly payment. This model helps flatten charges into regular, predictable expenses.
2. Less administrative overhead
Penetration testing as a service is a continuous delivery model. No need for additional scope approvals.
4. Continuous monitoring & testing
Monitoring is performed based on individual scope. Typically the engagements start with an initial check of networks, web applications, and hosts. This assessment serves as a baseline that determines the scope of monthly monitoring required. Then, the monitoring process can check for changes and new vulnerabilities in new and existing services.
5. Early release, detection, & remediation
PTaaS enables you to detect and remediate issues during the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) release cycle. If compliance requirements and software architecture permit, PTaaS can provide you with the ability to deploy software changes to security testing instances, during various stages of the release cycle.
3 Disadvantages of PTaaS
1. No full report
Traditional reports, the kind created and provided to auditors, require a complete technical summary and/or covering specific point-in-time snapshots. Full reports are often important for organizations required to meet strict compliance regulations. However, for organizations that need ongoing visibility, PTaaS provides insights that can be acted on immediately.
2. Third party timing restrictions
Not all third-party providers enable pentesting on an ongoing basis, and then you are required to ask permission in advance. Amazon Web Services (AWS), for example, require obtaining testing authorization, and allow a maximum window of twelve weeks. This means you can perform PTaaS in AWS environments, but must ask for authorization four to five times per year.
3. Sensitive data retention & handling
Vendors often have their own approaches to handling sensitive data. However, the majority use encryption to secure data. The majority of encryption processes use some form of key management. This creates complications for PTaaS and means it might not be possible to archive data at rest using keys or a split knowledge of keys.
Choosing Penetration Testing Services
There are a few key elements potential customers should look at when evaluating automated, manual or hybrid PTaaS, including the reputation and history of the vendor. Here are other important capabilities:
- Resources—a comprehensive library containing remediation instructions.
- Multiple sources—features for aggregating and correlating data originating at multiple sources.
- Easy collaboration—controls that allow multiple testers to simultaneously collaborate when working on the same project, and correlate their findings into a unified reporting workspace.
- Normalize severity—capabilities for normalizing severity and confidence across scanners, to reduce false positives and improve hits.
- File formats—features for generating reports using multiple file formats.
- Customization—controls for customizing report templates for each type of test.
- Tracking—capabilities for tracking trends across time periods and monitoring the completion time of remediation.
- Integration—features that enable integrating reporting, enterprise ticketing, and governance, risk and compliance (GRC) software.
Top Pentesting Providers
ScienceSoft provides software development and cybersecurity services, including penetration testing. The company has fifteen years of experience as a cybersecurity service provider, helping a diverse clientele, such as banking institutions, healthcare organizations, retailers, manufacturers, and more.
CyberHunter was founded in 2016, and has since been recognized as a top pentesting and cyber security service provider. The company provides a wide range of services, including network threat assessment, threat hunting, security audits, vulnerability mapping, and more.
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Raxis was founded in 2011. The company specializes in penetration testing and vulnerability management, providing breach assessments as well as incident response services. Raxis has a highly specialized team of security professionals, and performs more than 300 penetration tests on an annual basis.
Indusface was founded back in 2004 as a security consulting company. The company’s service, Indusface Web Application Scanning (WAS), provides manual pentesting backed by an automated web application vulnerability scanner. The scanner uses the OWASP top 10 list to detect and report vulnerabilities.
Intruder was founded in 2015. The company offers penetration testing services and vulnerability scanning solutions. Some of intruder’s solutions are offered as Software as a Service (SaaS), including an automated scanning tool designed especially for actionable results. The solution can be integrated with various environments, including Azure, Google Cloud, and AWS.