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17 Expert Tips For Achieving The Maximum Benefits From A Pen Test

There’s never a day when cybersecurity isn’t a top issue for tech teams. Every company—no matter its size or profile—that relies on computing and data is a target for hackers, and the threat horizon is ever-expanding. Regularly assessing your cybersecurity protocols is an essential part of managing tech systems and digital assets.

The best way to test your defenses is to have an outside team actually try to breach them. That’s where penetration testing comes in. A pen test can give an organization’s cybersecurity systems a workout, prodding for weak spots and providing valuable feedback to help strengthen defenses. Below, 17 members of the Forbes Technology Council share smart steps to take both before and after a pen test to ensure you realize the maximum benefits from the exercise.

1. Conduct Red Team Exercises First

Tech teams should conduct red team exercises before a pen test. Red teaming involves imitating real-world attacks from external threats. Organizations can gain insights into their readiness and response capabilities by participating in such exercises. Correcting the gaps identified in red team exercises can prepare a tech team, ensuring the pen test provides the best value possible. – Cristian Randieri, Intellisystem Technologies

2. Engage In Thorough Asset Management

Before undergoing a pen test, tech teams should engage in thorough asset management, ensuring they catalog all hardware, software, and network components. This comprehensive inventory ensures that the pen test covers all potentially vulnerable areas and doesn’t miss crucial elements. – Sandro Shubladze, Datamam

3. Time The Test Carefully

The timing of your pen test is vital. If you do it too early, you’ll have updates and additions you’ll have to retest. If you do it too late, you can miss vulnerabilities and leave yourself exposed. Be thoughtful about the test and make sure you do it at the right time in relation to your company timeline and roadmap. – Jordan Yallen, MetaTope

4. Verify All Stakeholders Are Brought In

Before a pen test, it’s important to verify all stakeholders are brought into the project. The pen tester should be able to provide the clear steps required throughout the project life cycle. After the pen test, the most important thing is to close any findings that could put customer data at risk. Next would be to document all findings and either defer, mitigate, remediate or accept the risk. – Justin Rende, Rhymetec

5. Establish The Scope Of The Vulnerabilities

To prevent disrupting business-critical activities, conduct a pre-pen test call to establish the scope of the vulnerabilities, which can be general or focused on a specific area. After a pen test, review the results, remediate the findings based on criticality or the likelihood of vulnerability exploit, examine the repercussions of exploitability, and, due to new threats and risks, repeat the process. – Dr. Vivian Lyon, Plaza Dynamics

6. List Possible Security Issues, And Rank Them

Before a pen test, tech teams should make a list of any possible security issues and rank them by importance. This helps ensure the pen test doesn’t just find random errors but focuses on the biggest ones. This way, the test is more useful and efficient. – Margarita Simonova, ILoveMyQA

7. Balance Systems Harm With A Realistic Scenario

A pen test should avoid harming critical systems and operations, particularly in high-risk sectors such as healthcare or critical infrastructure. Simultaneously, it should mirror a real attack as closely as possible to yield value. Prior to the test, carefully consider these conflicting objectives. Plan strategically to strike a balance aligned with the organization’s threat model and risk tolerance. – Ilia Sotnikov, Netwrix

8. Ensure Open Communication With The Testers

Tech teams should ensure open communication with the pen testers to gain insights into their methodologies and findings. This knowledge exchange fosters a deeper understanding of the vulnerabilities and enables teams to implement effective security measures. The team can then document and share the knowledge obtained from the pen test internally, allowing it to pay dividends over time. – Austin Gadient, Vali Cyber

9. Form Focus Groups

It is crucial to form focus groups for every penetration test, particularly if the members are not familiar with the product. Developers may have a biased view due to their prolonged involvement with the project. Therefore, having an external perspective from individuals or a group can be beneficial in identifying potential vulnerabilities. – Igor Pertsiya, Hypra Fund

10. Manage Access Control

Access-control management is one of the steps a tech team must take after a pen test. This will ensure that an unauthorized user does not have continuing access to the software after the pen test exercise. Additionally, there should be documentation of the findings after the pen test that can serve as a knowledge bank for developing subsequent solutions. – Nihinlola Adeyemi, ErrandPay Limited

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11. Leverage Artificial Intelligence To Analyze And Interpret The Results

Utilize AI-driven security platforms to analyze and interpret the pen test results in real-time. AI can quickly identify patterns and correlations, prioritize critical issues, and recommend targeted remediation strategies. Integrating AI with the pen test process ensures rapid response and continuous monitoring, making the exercise more proactive and impactful. – Jagadish Gokavarapu, Wissen Infotech

12. Identify Vulnerabilities And Weaknesses

A tech team should conduct a comprehensive review and analysis of the test results, identifying vulnerabilities and weaknesses. This step enables the team to prioritize remediation efforts and develop an action plan to promptly address critical issues. Regular communication and collaboration among team members during the process are also essential to ensure the maximum benefit. – Akaash RamakrishnanAdSkate Inc.

13. Create A List Of High-Priority Fixes

After a pen test, your tech team should create a list of high-priority fixes. I’ve found that noting what needs to change at the moment helps me assess the situation and make smarter decisions. This strategy is effective because everyone on the team can see and understand what needs to happen next in the development process. – Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

14. Develop A Remediation Plan

One step tech teams should take is creating a remediation plan, which is vital for several reasons. First, it ensures that vulnerabilities found are fixed. Second, it helps prioritize what needs fixing first. Third, it tracks the progress of remediation. Finally, it ensures continuous improvement. – Giri Chodavarapu, Omnicell

15. Share The Results And Talk Through Solutions

After a pen test, instead of solely focusing on fixing vulnerabilities, tech teams should share the results with various stakeholders (including non-technical staff) and talk through solutions. This allows diverse perspectives to understand the implications of the findings, fostering a companywide culture of security awareness and turning the pen test into an organizational learning moment. – Marc Rutzen,

16. Implement Organization-wide Security ‘Best Practices

Meanwhile, use the pen test results to identify broader security gaps and implement security “best practices” across the organization. This may include improving access controls, updating software, and enforcing security policies. – Manan Shah, Avalance Global Solutions

17. Establish Ongoing Security Posture Reviews

After a penetration test, carefully review the findings to understand the vulnerabilities exploited and identify root causes. This should be a process that transforms the pen test from a one-time event into a catalyst for ongoing security posture reviews since the attack surface changes more often than we realize. – Ranghan Venkatraman, Rezilyens LLC

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