In 2022, the average cost of a data breach in the United States was over 9.44 million U.S. dollars. This number is expected to be even higher for 2023. Reddit, Twitter, and T-Mobile are only some of the major companies that recently suffered damaging data breaches. But if even large companies have been victims of damaging breaches, how can other businesses that have even fewer funds protect themselves from possible data leaks?
The truth is, most businesses are aware of the importance of security and already have strong protection that consists of a large number of cyber solutions. What they often lack is the quality, thorough, and constant testing of the security they do have. One way to do that is with automated penetration testing.
What are some of the main differences between automated penetration testing and traditional penetration (AKA pen) testing, what does the use of this technology mean for security teams, and how does it reduce the number of overall breaches?
Traditional vs Automated Pen Testing
Automated pen testing is built on the same core principles and strategy as traditional pen testing:
- The exact objectives are set beforehand
- The existing security points are attacked with a specific vector (e.g. employees are targeted with phishing attacks)
- The result shows whether the security systems can identify and mitigate the attack
- The final step is to create a comprehensive report which shows the accurate state of the security posture
The key difference is that, when automated, this process occurs at all times and produces more relevant reports. When it comes to traditional penetration testing, companies would have to wait for the process over the course of months to find out if they’re well protected against the tested cyberattacks.
Nowadays, with the rapidly changing attack surface that can shift in minutes, the 30-day waiting period would mean that the data might not be relevant anymore. The new, more critical vulnerabilities could be endangering the infrastructure. Even more, the old pen test would happen once a year — which would leave the company with major gaps in the security between the pen testing and patching schedules.
Another major difference is the cost because the old pen testing method required the hiring of experts to perform tests. Besides being more cost-effective, businesses have more freedom with automated testing. Automated tools give autonomy to companies by allowing them to perform their own tests whose data and suggestions on how to fix potential issues can be used internally right away.
Automation Facilitating Security Jobs or Taking Them Away?
Security teams are up against more threats than ever before. The attack surfaces are getting wider — meaning hackers have more points of attack they can target. Therefore, tools such as automated penetration testing weren’t made to work against security experts, but for them instead. Automating parts of the process takes off some of the tasks that would otherwise be put on security teams. They already have too much to do and are frequently bogged down with alerts for which they have to decide whether they indicate high-risk flaws within the architecture.
Skilled penetration testers can apply and customize automated pen testing technology to find the major flaws faster and offer recommendations on how to repair them on time — before hackers find them. However, one of the major advantages of the automated testing tool is that it’s user-friendly and useful for all members of security teams — regardless of their skill. The reports that are continually updated on the dashboard are user-friendly and offer actionable advice on how to patch up flaws that could be exploited by malicious hackers. They’re essential for making quick and informed decisions, prioritizing threats and using precious time in the areas that matter most.
Avoiding Data Breaches With Automated Pen Testing
The main goal of security that is repeatedly tested, repaired, and strengthened is to keep the threat actors far away from the user accounts and data that is stored within the infrastructure. Data breaches can occur due to several different flaws. Insecure API, stolen employee credential that has been used for illicit access, a successful phishing scheme that installed ransomware in the system, and more. Different software that the company uses will, at times, have versatile critical vulnerabilities. For instance, a data breach for a business that utilizes the cloud might be the result of cloud misconfiguration.
A startup that is building an application could have an insecure API. Any business could be breached after a phishing attack or unauthorized use of credentials that the intruder found on the hacking forum or the dark web. The report that is generated by the automated penetration testing can give teams a quick glance at the state of their security in real-time. Essentially, it uncovers the way that the hacker could breach the organization and get to the sensitive data regarding the company, its employees, users, and clients. As a result, the security team is one step ahead of the hackers. The testing buys them some time to uncover and repair the fatal flaws before they cause a major incident.
Key Takeaways — Improve Security Every Day
In cybersecurity, there are no perfect systems. Continually improved security is the closest it can get to perfection. Automated penetration testing has a major role in strengthening security on the go. The tool has been created to help security analysts and the team working in the security department with versatile skills. Its ability to continually test the security and detect the flaws, report about the critical weaknesses, and offer ways to fix the vulnerabilities before hackers find them is essential for well-managed security. It leaves security teams knowing that they did the best they could in an era of an insurmountable number of threats that could be leading to data breaches that hurt a company’s finances and reputation.
About The Author –
Hazel Raoult is a freelance marketing writer and works with PRmention. She has 6+ years of experience in writing about business, entrepreneurship, marketing, and all things SaaS. Hazel loves to split her time between writing, editing, and hanging out with her family.