Blog | Can Penetration Testing Be Automated?

December 23, 2021 Claranet Limited

2021 is set to become a record-breaking year for data breaches. Indeed, the number of data compromises have already surpassed 2020's total by 17 percent.

In order to protect your business from cyber threats and breaches, it's an absolute requirement to incorporate penetration testing into your IT operations.

Put simply, a penetration test involves ethically and intentionally hacking into an infrastructure, device, app or network to locate vulnerabilities. From here, you can focus your efforts on mending the cracks and improving your security posture.

Like many IT practices, penetration testing is historically a manual process. But, the
question is: can you automate this test?


Automated penetration testing

We'll cut to the chase here. Yes, you can use automated tools to scan your environments. But they should act as a complementary aspect to human-led pen-testing.

Automated penetration testing, when handled by an expert, can offer the ability to:

  • Continuously scan. Here, our service is very versatile, and can be configured from continuous (one scan ends, the next starts) all the way up to daily/weekly/monthly etc.
  • Flag the 'low-hanging fruit'. It will automatically detect many of the less severe vulnerabilities.
  • Scan large volumes quickly. Automated tools work faster and can handle larger loads of data.

Ultimately, an automated vulnerability scanner accounts for certain human limitations, such as time and energy. They work continuously, handle larger loads, and allow penetration testers to focus their efforts on the more complex security issues.

However, they lack one key quality: the expertise of an expert. As a tool, it can only provide you with the vulnerabilities found - not context into your business risk.

The importance of human intervention

Some businesses may use automated vulnerability scanners exclusively. But this can be a damning mistake. That's because these tools have fundamental downfalls, such as an increased likelihood of false positives.

In these cases, you need human intervention to weed out the real vulnerabilities that require action. Otherwise, you'll waste hours of time looking into false positive issues raised by scanners that don't even exist.

On top of this, human expertise is vital for identifying more complex and context aware issues in your infrastructure, devices or applications.


Automation coupled with expertise

With so many emerging cyber threats to navigate, penetration testing isn't just 'nice to have'. It's a necessity.

You can conduct vulnerability scanning through automation, but it should be an add-on to full, human-led penetration testing. That way, you can benefit from continuous scanning coupled with the expertise of specialist testers.

At Claranet, we're CREST-approved penetration testers, offering services for infrastructures, web applications, and more. Our Continuous Security Testing approach blends human expertise with automated vulnerability identification, ensuring no stone is left unturned. We weed out false positives, apply human logic, and provide you with a comprehensive report to help you fix any issues.

Keen to find out more? Visit our Continuous Security Testing page and see how our services could help keep your business's defences watertight.


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