Table of Contents
- What Are Penetration Testing Companies?
- What Does a Penetration Testing Firm Do?
- What are the Stages of Penetration Testing?
- What are the Types of Pen Tests?
- Why Hire Pen Testing Companies?
- How Much Does a Penetration Testing Service Provider Charge for Their Services?
- How to Select the Right Penetration Testing Firm for Your Project?
- 10 Questions to Ask When Interviewing Pen Testing Firms
- Takeaways on Penetration Testing Companies
Penetration testing companies perform ethical cybersecurity tests designed and built to identify and carefully exploit vulnerabilities impacting a certain organization's computer systems, networks, websites, and applications.
What Does a Penetration Testing Firm Do?
Pen testing companies intentionally launch a series of simulated cyberattacks, a form of ethical hacking, while utilizing strategies, methodologies, and tools formulated and created to gain access to IT systems and networks.
A penetration testing firm executes this process to uncover weak points and risks so they can be addressed immediately, significantly lowering the odds of getting targeted and harmed by malicious attacks.
Weak areas in the defenses of systems and networks may cause easy exposure to threats or data and overall security breach. Pen testing firms detect these exploitable issues and spot other susceptibilities.
Here are what a penetration testing service provider can do for your company or business:
1. Expose Exploitable Vulnerabilities
Penetration testing companies perform deliberate attempts at breaching application systems such as application protocol interfaces or APIs and frontend and backend servers. This procedure will reveal vulnerable input that may be prone to attacks and code injection by hackers.
2. Reinforce WAF
A penetration testing firm can deliver valuable insights and assessments following the results of the pen tests. Using these observations, the penetration test team can finetune your web application firewall or WAF, making adjustments, modifications, and tweaks where necessary.
3. Propose Strengthened Security Plans & Policies
Pen testing companies meticulously examine and evaluate computer systems and networks level and depth of security. Using the same techniques, processes, and tools that attackers use, pen testing experts discover and demonstrate what impact and damage system and network weaknesses can have on your business.
In this light, your penetration testing service provider can give you data-driven and well-calculated recommendations for more robust and powerful security policies and strategies.
What are the Stages of Penetration Testing?
These are the five phases that complete the whole cycle of a pen test:
1. Planning and Reconnaissance
This is when your penetration testing firm defines the test's scope and goal. It includes identifying and locating the systems that need to be addressed and the most appropriate method.
During this stage, your penetration testing service provider will gather as much information as possible such as mail server, and network, and domain names. This information will help them better understand the vulnerabilities of potential targeted applications of threats or attacks.
Next up, the pen test team will evaluate how a specific target may respond to different intrusions and attempts of interruption.
Scanning can be done either through static analysis or dynamic analysis. On the one hand, static analysis allows for the inspection of a target application’s code to estimate how it behaves while it’s running. On the other hand, the dynamic analysis provides real-time evaluation of the overall performance of a target application in its running state, making it the more practical choice for the scanning process.
3. Gaining Access
This stage involves using web application attacks like cross-site scripting, SQL injection, and backdoors to expose the target application’s weaknesses. What pen-testing firms do is try exploiting these vulnerabilities. They will attempt to steal data, escalate privileges, and intercept traffic.
The results of this intentional infringement and disruption will then give them information about the repercussions these may trigger and the extent of potential damages that may be inflicted.
4. Maintaining Access
The objective of maintaining an exploit is to determine if the affected vulnerability may turn into a long-term, advanced threat in the system.
This stage will help penetration testing companies more carefully gauge how deeply an attacker could reach if the persistent threat stays in the exploited system. It will also answer the question of how long it would take to detect a lingering threat and its potential to steal sensitive and confidential company data.
5. Review and Analysis
The final step comprises the compilation of results and reports following the first four stages. The review and analysis aim to detail the following:
- Specific vulnerabilities deliberately exploited
- Sensitive data that the intentional attacks managed to access
- The duration of time the penetration testing company spent in the system without detection
- Configuration by the penetration testing firm of the company’s WAF settings
- Application of solutions proposed by the security testers to close network and system gaps, safeguard vulnerabilities, and protect against future attempts at intrusion
What are the Types of Pen Tests?
Penetration testing companies must have extensive know-how and capabilities to execute and complete each of the following types of penetration testing:
1. External Testing
In an external penetration test, pen testing companies target external-facing assets of your business. These technologies are visible on the internet, such as company websites, web applications, email and domain name servers (DNS), and external network servers.
In some scenarios, there is no need for the penetration testing service provider to be physically present in office. Their security personnel and ethical hackers will conduct the attack remotely from another location.
2. Internal Testing
During an internal pen test, the security tester simulates an attack toward vulnerabilities from behind the firewall. This intends to mimic an intrusion from the inside of the company, whether it is a malicious insider or an employee with compromised credentials that have actual hackers.
3. Blind Testing
A blind penetration test is also called closed-box pen text or single-blind test. In this case, pen testing firms are only provided with no more than the target company’s name. It aims to give a real-time glimpse into how an application attack and a system breach occur.
4. Double-Blind Testing
The double-blind pen test is also known as the covert pen test. During this testing, almost no one within your organization knows that a penetration test is happening. In most situations, not even your in-house IT specialists or security professionals, responding to the impending system assault simulation, are made aware of the pen test.
The covert or double-blind pen tester especially requires a thoroughly detailed scope of the ethical hack in written form to ensure there is no disregard for legal policies and no law is violated.
Why Hire Pen Testing Companies?
Beyond its function as a vulnerability scan and a compliance audit, penetration tests are designed for in-depth examination of the effectiveness and efficiency of security controls and protocols in real use by real enterprises in real situations. It is through pen tests that the capacities and preparedness of an organization are measured.
These tests are so valuable in that they can answer whether your company can tackle multiple simultaneous attacks. That is why you will need the expertise of skilled, ethical hackers from a dedicated penetration testing firm.
1. Get to the Bottom of Vulnerabilities Before Malicious Attackers Do
Pen testing companies can bring light to vulnerabilities early on. Recognizing applications and other aspects of your company’s IT systems and networks that are susceptible keeps you on the lookout and positions you several steps ahead of a would-be intruder. Hiring the services of a penetration testing firm is practical and strategic.
2. Know the Strengths of Your Network Defenders
A penetration test is a precautionary measure, too. Through the proficiencies of a pen testing company, you can unveil and measure the readiness and effectiveness of your intrusion detection programs and defenses. Penetration testers will know if your security and protection tools are robust enough and working correctly.
3. Evaluate the Potential Damages in the Event of a Successful Attack
The detrimental effects of an attack include disruption of business processes, financial losses, damaged brand reputation, dissemination of critical and classified data, and interference in the organizational infrastructure.
In the United States alone, the average data breach cost in 2021 was $4.24 million, and the amount continues to rise annually.
Identifying these impacts following a breach allows your company to map out actionable steps to mitigate them, if not entirely avert them.
How Much Does a Penetration Testing Service Provider Charge for Their Services?
Several variables influence the asking fees of pen testing firms. These include the complexity of the tests, the choice of or required methodology, and the experience of the agency in the industry.
A pen testing company will also factor in whether the test will be performed on one application or whether there will be multiple tests for various applications. On-site visits mean additional charges, too.
On average though, an excellent-quality, professional penetration testing costs between $15,000 and $30,000. The price for a “simple” pen testing for a single app can start from $5,000.
How to Select the Right Penetration Testing Firm for Your Project?
Here are the qualifications to look for when choosing the best penetration testing agency partner for your business:
1. Review Certifications
Make sure you work with a pen test firm with industry certifications. This guarantees that the agency is a leader and authority in the industry and is equipped with expertise in specific business models. Here are some of the most prominent certifications penetration testing companies can obtain:
- Computer Resilience Evaluation Standard Tool (CREST)
- Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH)
- EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker certification
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
2. Be Clear on Communication Channels
Your ideal penetration testing service provider must excel on the job and keep you in the loop of the entire testing process. Its team should inform and provide you with updates during each step of the testing procedures. It is their responsibility to give you adequate explanation and clarification regarding technicalities and other details which may not be clear to you.
Complete transparency in payment structure and payment plans is also a must from the start of the transaction up to the project completion.
3. Look for Flexibility
Partner with a firm whose testing methods are adaptable to your organizational structure and business model. Your agency choice must also be willing to adjust to your preferred schedule.
10 Questions to Ask When Interviewing Pen Testing Firms
- What professional certifications and training does your firm hold?
- What are your available testing methodologies?
- What data are included in your review and analysis report?
- How do you maintain internal security for your agency?
- Do you also offer remediation services?
- Will you be assigning us a single dedicated team of penetration testers?
- How in-depth are your background and screening check procedures for your employees?
- How do we maintain communication with your company?
- What are your specialized focus areas?
- Will our business services remain live even during the pen testing?
Takeaways on Penetration Testing Companies
In any business or organization, the security of networks, data, and its people is a foremost priority. Investing in a reputable and vastly experienced penetration testing firm is genuinely worthwhile.
You will gain more from investing in prevention and defenses against malicious intruders. In addition to securing finances and crucial information, the benefits of working with a penetration testing service provider entail a specific capacity of freedom and give you your share of peace of mind.
Best of luck!