Advancements in technology are a double-edged sword. As technology advances and discoveries are made, so do weaknesses in an organization’s web applications, networks, and software applications. And, of course, new vulnerabilities mean new attack vectors for bad actors.  It is, therefore, up to an organization’s security team to find, fix, and/or monitor these vulnerabilities before the attackers do. 

The vulnerabilities themselves happen for a number of reasons:  poorly designed architecture, certain misconfigurations, insecure code, etc. They are often introduced accidentally during the implementation phase of software development. The most common vulnerabilities include software bugs, configuration errors, and design errors, to name a few.  To uncover these vulnerabilities, organizations should frequently carry out penetration testing by testing and identifying all the present security risks.  Penetration Testing is carried out through two techniques, automated penetration testing and manual penetration testing.  This post will explore automated testing.

What is automated penetration testing?

Automated penetration testing involves using automated tools to scan the vulnerabilities within an organization’s network. Manual tests are expensive, and they often take more time than an organization might have. Automated testing, by comparison, is cheaper and faster (sometimes taking only a few hours, rather than a few weeks). Automated penetration tests use a Breach and Attack Simulation (BAS) software platform – of course designed to function the same way as the traditional red team penetration testing – which continuously launches simulated attacks against a company’s defenses and identifies whatever vulnerabilities it might find. Once the security gaps are discovered, the BAS platform then provides remediation guidance. 

Manual Penetration Testing vs. Automated Penetration Testing

Manual Penetration TestingAutomated Penetration Testing
Manual Penetration testing requires several professionals when running the different tests.Automated penetration testing requires fewer skills and less manpower to provide precise results.
Manual testing takes a longer time, usually 4 to 6 weeksThe tools work faster and require less time to generate results as they perform the process at a high speed
Requires a large variety of tools – and, again, people to run them – for testing and trackingHas standard and centralized tools, all of which can be started by one person.

What are the types of Automated Penetration Testing?

Automated Reconnaissance Penetration Testing

Automated Reconnaissance Penetration Testing is a passive test that detects security vulnerabilities and critical issues that exist on the very front-end of an organization (such as an employee’s breached email account). Just like its manual counterpart, the Reconnaissance phase of pentesting is simply meant to gather information in the hopes of finding a loophole or easily exploitable entry point.  

Automated External Penetration Testing

Automated External Infrastructure Penetration Testing detects and verifies security weaknesses and critical risks for the publicly-accessible infrastructure. With a powerful combination of active attacks and automated reconnaissance, security teams can find and remediate public-facing risks.  

Automated Internal Penetration Testing

Automated Internal Infrastructure Penetration Testing allows you to run internal pentests across corporate networks – on-demand – from any location within public clouds and on-premise data centers, including Azure and AWS. It helps to minimize the time it takes to detect and verify security weaknesses and internal risks. 

Automated DevOps Application Penetration Testing 

Automated DevOps Application Security Testing helps integrate security testing into an organization’s DevOps pipeline. For every code deployment, automated DevOps application testing helps developers discover application-layer vulnerabilities early in the process, saving time, frustration, and – potentially – problems later down the road. 

Automated DevOps Application Penetration Testing

What is the penetration testing process?

There are four penetration testing methods, which can be categorized as follows:

Data collection

There are many data collection tools available for free, not the least of which is Google. Whether the tester is using Google to enumerate employees, or using Nmap to map the network, the tools available can give you a wealth of information including the hardware used, software versions, DB versions and the third-party plugin used in a system.

Vulnerability assessment

Based on the data collected, you can then begin to search for security vulnerabilities. For example, earlier versions of WordPress (before 5.2.3) did not properly filter comments, allowing for SQL injections and XSS. Once existing vulnerabilities are discovered, the pentesters can then launch attacks through the identified entry points. 

Exploitation

Here is where the actual attacks occur.  In the above example, the pentester may execute a SQL injection, or open a backdoor into the database. 

Report preparation and result in analysis

After all the tests have been completed, the pentester prepares a detailed report to make corrective actions. The report lists all the vulnerabilities that were identified together with recommendations for remediation. 

Best Automated Penetration Testing Tool

There are many automated Penetration Testing tools out there,  but in our opinion, the best tool is Evolve. Evolve’s penetration testing environments are scalable, and can be tailored to the specific type of penetration test you want to perform, allowing the user to choose the level of intensity and protection that is right for his or her business needs. 

Automated Penetration Testing by Evolve

Evolve secures both internal and external applications and systems in an organization, and allows you to execute on-demand automated pen-testing across an organization’s systems. Evolve even offers monitoring of an organization’s domain names and email addresses. To date, there have been over 700 billion compromised accounts, whether email, health sites, or e-commerce sites. Evolve will protect and monitor your corporate accounts from sites whose credentials may have been breached, helping to keep your business from being added to that statistic.

Conclusion

Automated Penetration Testing,  when used in conjunction with regularly scheduled manual tests and standard detection tools, can provide a much more efficient and effective security position.  It’s high time to consider reaping the benefits of automated breach simulation by moving beyond the limitations of point-in-time testing.