Three Benefits of In-House Penetration Testing Capabilities

There are daily reminders seen in the news, or heard second hand, of hackers stealing or exposing data. Having just one pen test often exposes security weaknesses that are not adequately protected with compensating controls,  Which will help with  setting priorities and mitigating the associated risk. This begs the question, how could you improve your cyber security posture if you had a pen testing capabilities in-house? The following three benefits show that not only could they serve as a daily reminder to improve awareness and create an overarching culture of vigilance, they can also ensure mandates are met, and help improve your overall cybersecurity posture.


1.Take Initiative Against Threats with More Consistent Penetration Testing

For many threat actors, hacking is a full-time job. A recent Verizon study showed that about 25% of the data breaches reported had nation-state affiliation and about a third of them were organized criminal groups. Hackers are not only constantly coming up with new, innovative ways to break into IT environments, they are also regularly scanning for common weaknesses that people and organizations are unaware of, and errors they unintentionally make. Consistency is key if you want to maximize the  value derived from penetration testing. Most organizations are continuously making changes to infrastructure, deploying new applications, many of which are web facing, and trying to keep up with the thousands of vulnerabilities being identified within the environment. Having pen testing capabilities in-house enable organizations to more proactively identify security weaknesses that need to be addressed, on an ongoing basis.

Additionally, staff with pen testing capabilities can regularly run a diverse number of tests. For example, with the aid of a tool like Core Impact, pen testers can deploy a thorough phishing campaign, without having to go through the complexity of setting up an environment to do so. Whether disguised as an email from their supervisor, or as a notification from HR, social engineering tests are designed to identify which users are susceptible to clicking on suspicious links and providing credentials or other valuable information. Other pen tests, like web application tests or network tests, expose further areas attackers can easily exploit for their own gains.

Having staff available to  validate security weaknesses in your systems and people, not only ensures steady testing, it also provides your organization with at least one person, if not a team of people, who think about breach strategies. They can think like an attacker, keeping up to date on the latest threats so that your organization won’t be caught off guard.

2. Be Better Prepared for Audits and Meeting Compliance Mandates

For many organizations, penetration testing isn’t optional. Industry standards, regulations, or mandates specify the importance of pen testing, and in some cases make it compulsory. And for good reason—organizations that have a proactive approach can get actionable insight sooner, allowing them to close gaps and prevent breaches. Having an in-house pen testing capabilities ensures that this request or requirement is easily accomplished and won’t fall through the cracks. With continuous testing, organizations can far exceed the bare minimum conditions of a mandate or regulation.

Other organizations willingly or are required to subject themselves to cybersecurity audits by third parties. For example, ISACA outlines the scope of an audit as tasks including examining security policies, loss prevention methods, access controls, detection and prevention methods, security controls, and an incident response program. Failing an audit, or simply having numerous findings that should have been addressed, can have serious consequences. Utilizing in-house pen testing capabilities helps you prepare for a 3rd party examination by minimizing the potential findings.

3. Find A Smoother Path Towards Remediation

Even when pen results are shown to an organization, it isn’t a guarantee that measures will be taken to remediate these issues. They may not receive recommendations on how to do so, or the suggestions may not be feasible for any number of reasons. The most powerful advantage of in-house pen testing is the internal knowledge of the organization. Proposals can be tailored to the organization itself, outlining the best and most effective changes that are also achievable.

Security teams with pen testing capabilities can also help implement these changes. For example, as cybersecurity subject matter experts, they can also serve as valuable parts of re-education efforts to put users on alert for the signs of suspicious emails.  With in-house pen testing capabilities, it is also more likely and often easier to retest, to ensure changes were successfully implemented. Finally, just their very presence can be enough to incentivize fixing security issues, knowing the next test is just around the corner.   

Building Your In-House Penetration Testing Capabilities

These are just a few of the reasons in-house pen testing capabilities are worth pursuing. Once you have them in place, your organization can go even further in the pursuit of safeguarding the IT environment. While third party services will  often be necessary for mandates requiring a 3rd party, or when a different set of “eyes” are wanted to see if something is being missed, regular penetration testing will continue to become more and more critical for a successful cybersecurity posture. It’s never too soon to begin an in-house program.

There can be challenges when creating an in-house pen testing program, primarily stemming from the global cybersecurity skills gap that continues to grow. Our next blog explores how to overcome these  challenges with the assistance of commercial penetration testing tools that help make testers more effective and efficient.