Craig Pepper & James Mallam
March 22, 2023
10 Min Read

Trends and Developments of Penetration Testing

Penetration testing is a critical component of cybersecurity that helps organisations identify vulnerabilities in their systems and networks. As the threat landscape evolves, new trends and developments are emerging in the field of penetration testing. In this whitepaper, we will explore the latest trends and developments in penetration testing and their implications for organisations.

Emerging Trends in Penetration Testing

1.Cloud-based Penetration Testing

Cloud-based penetration testing is the process of assessing the security of a cloud environment to identify vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers. As more organisations move their applications and data to the cloud, cloud-based penetration testing has become an essential component of cybersecurity. In this whitepaper, we will explore the benefits and challenges of cloud-based penetration testing and provide recommendations for organisations looking to conduct cloud-based penetration testing.

Benefits of Cloud-based Penetration Testing

Comprehensive Testing

Cloud-based penetration testing allows organisations to test their entire cloud environment, including web applications, databases, and storage systems. This comprehensive testing can identify vulnerabilities that might be missed by traditional vulnerability scanners.

Comprehensive testing would also help highlight any misconfigurations. Misconfigurations occur when products or services are often hosted on different platforms with different rule sets. For example, a website hosted on a cloud-based platform might have different security requirements than a locally hosted website. As a result, the settings and configurations required for each platform might differ, making it easy for misconfigurations to occur.

Another factor that can contribute to misconfigurations is the use of default settings or configurations. Many systems come with default settings that are not always secure, and failing to change these settings can leave the system vulnerable to attacks. For example, leaving default usernames and passwords unchanged can make it easy for attackers to gain access to a system.

Penetration testing can help identify misconfigurations by simulating attacks and attempting to exploit vulnerabilities in the system. By performing penetration testing regularly, organizations can identify misconfigurations and other security vulnerabilities before they are exploited by attackers.

Flexibility

Penetration testing traditional and cloud-based provides organisations with flexibility in terms of when and how testing is conducted. Testing can be performed on demand, and with the guidance of pen testing expert, they will choose from a variety of testing methodologies and tools best suited for the organisation.

Challenges of Cloud-based Penetration Testing

Compliance Concerns

Organisations that handle sensitive data or are subject to compliance regulations must ensure that cloud-based penetration testing is conducted in compliance with those regulations. This can be a challenge, as regulations can vary from country to country and even from industry to industry.

Security Risks

Cloud-based penetration testing involves accessing an organisation's cloud environment from a remote location. This can create security risks if the testing is not conducted securely. Organisations must ensure that their cloud-based penetration testing is conducted using secure connections and protocols to minimise these risks.

Service Provider Selection

Choosing the right cloud-based penetration testing service provider can be challenging. Organisations must ensure that the service provider has the necessary experience, expertise, and certifications to conduct traditional and cloud-based penetration testing effectively.

Recommendations for Cloud-based Penetration Testing

Understand Your Cloud Environment

Before conducting any penetration testing, organisations must have a thorough understanding of their cloud environment. This includes checking the terms and conditions of the cloud provider if pentest is allowed to understand the types of applications and data stored in the cloud and the potential vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers.

Select a Reputable Service Provider

Organisations should choose a reputable and experienced cloud-based penetration testing service provider. This provider should have a proven track record of conducting effective penetration testing and should be able to provide references and certifications as needed.

Ensure Compliance

Organisations should ensure that their cloud-based penetration testing is conducted in compliance with any applicable regulations. This may require working with legal and compliance teams to ensure that the testing is conducted in a manner that meets regulatory requirements.

Cloud-based penetration testing is an essential component of cybersecurity for organisations that rely on cloud environments to store and process their data. While cloud-based penetration testing offers many benefits, it also poses some challenges that must be addressed. Organisations must take a proactive approach to cloud-based penetration testing by understanding their cloud environment, selecting a reputable service provider, and ensuring compliance with regulations. By doing so, organisations can effectively identify and address vulnerabilities in their cloud environment, protecting their data and applications from potential attackers.

2. Automation 

Automation refers to the use of technology and software to perform tasks that were previously done manually by humans. It involves the use of machines, robots, and software to complete tasks efficiently and effectively, often with less human intervention.

Automation is becoming increasingly popular in many industries, including manufacturing, transportation, healthcare, and finance, among others. Some of the benefits of automation include:

Increased Efficiency

Automation helps to increase the speed and accuracy of tasks, leading to increased efficiency and productivity. It also helps to reduce the risk of errors that can be caused by human error.

Cost Savings

Automation can help to reduce labour costs and increase profitability. It also helps to reduce the need for expensive equipment, as automation can be used to perform tasks that would otherwise require specialised equipment.

Improved Quality 

Automation helps to improve the quality of products and services by reducing the risk of errors and inconsistencies that can occur with manual labour.

Enhanced Safety

Automation can help to improve workplace safety by performing dangerous or repetitive tasks, thereby reducing the risk of injury to workers.

There are various types of automation, including:

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) 

RPA involves the use of software robots to perform repetitive tasks such as data entry, invoice processing, and customer service inquiries.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) 

AI involves the use of machines and software to perform complex tasks such as natural language processing and decision-making.

Industrial Automation 

Industrial automation involves the use of machines and robots to perform tasks in manufacturing and other industrial settings.

Process Automation 

Process automation involves the use of software to automate business processes such as supply chain management, accounting, and human resources.

Overall, automation is a powerful tool that can help organisations to become more efficient, productive, and competitive. As technology continues to advance, automation is expected to play an increasingly important role in many industries, and organisations that embrace automation are likely to reap significant benefits.

3. Mobile Device Penetration Testing 

Mobile device penetration testing is the process of assessing the security of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to identify vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers. With the widespread adoption of mobile devices in both personal and business settings, mobile device penetration testing has become an essential component of cybersecurity. We will now explore the benefits and challenges of mobile device penetration testing and provide recommendations for organisations looking to conduct mobile device penetration testing.

Benefits of Mobile Device Penetration Testing

Comprehensive Testing

Mobile device penetration testing allows organisations to test their entire mobile device environment, including the operating system, applications, and device configurations. This comprehensive testing can identify vulnerabilities that might be missed by traditional vulnerability scanners or manual testing.

Real-World Testing

Mobile device penetration testing provides organisations with the ability to test their mobile devices in real-world scenarios, which can help to identify vulnerabilities that are only exploitable in specific situations, such as when connected to a particular network.

Mitigating Risks

Mobile device penetration testing can help organisations to identify vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by attackers, thereby mitigating the risk of data breaches, data loss, and other security incidents.

Compliance Requirements

Many organisations are subject to compliance regulations that require them to conduct regular mobile device penetration testing. Mobile device penetration testing can help organisations to comply with these regulations and avoid penalties and fines.

Challenges of Mobile Device Penetration Testing

Device Diversity

There are many different types of mobile devices, operating systems, and device configurations, which can make mobile device penetration testing challenging. Organisations must ensure that their testing covers all of the different types of devices and configurations that are used in their environment.

App Store Restrictions

Mobile devices operating systems such as iOS and Android have restrictions on the types of applications that can be installed, which can limit the ability to test certain scenarios. Organisations must ensure that they are aware of 

these restrictions and that their testing methodology takes them into account.

Data Privacy Concerns

Mobile devices often contain sensitive data, such as personal information, financial information, and confidential business data. Mobile device penetration testing must be conducted in a way that protects the privacy of this data and does not put it at risk of exposure.

Recommendations for Mobile Device Penetration Testing

Understand Your Environment

Before conducting mobile device penetration testing, organisations must have a thorough understanding of their mobile device environment. This includes understanding the types of devices, operating systems, and applications used, as well as any potential vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers.

Choose the Right Tools

Organisations must choose the right tools for mobile device penetration testing, including those that can test both Android and iOS devices. The tools should be able to test a range of scenarios, including those involving web applications and network connectivity.

Engage with a Reputable Service Provider

Organisations should consider engaging with a reputable service provider to conduct mobile device penetration testing. The provider should have the necessary expertise and experience to conduct effective testing and should be able to provide references and certifications as needed.

Ensure Compliance

Organisations must ensure that their mobile device penetration testing is conducted in compliance with any applicable regulations. This may require working with legal and compliance teams to ensure that the testing is conducted in a manner that meets regulatory requirements.

Mobile device penetration testing is an essential component of cybersecurity for organisations that use mobile devices to store and process their data. While mobile device penetration testing offers many benefits, it also poses some challenges that must be addressed. Organisations must take a proactive approach to mobile device penetration testing by understanding their mobile device environment, choosing the right tools, engaging with a reputable service provider, and ensuring compliance with regulations. By doing so, organisations can effectively identify and address vulnerabilities in their mobile device environment, protecting their data and applications from potential security breaches and other threats.

4. Social engineering

Social engineering is a type of cybersecurity attack that uses psychological manipulation to trick people into divulging confidential information or performing actions that could be harmful to the targeted organisation. In this whitepaper, we will explore the various types of social engineering attacks, the techniques used by attackers, and recommendations for preventing and mitigating the risks associated with social engineering attacks.

Types of Social Engineering Attacks

Phishing

Phishing attacks are the most common type of social engineering attack. They involve sending fake emails or messages to individuals in an attempt to trick them into clicking on a malicious link, downloading malware, or divulging confidential information.

Spear Phishing

Spear phishing attacks are more targeted and sophisticated than regular phishing attacks. They are aimed at specific individuals, usually within an organisation, and often involve detailed research and personalization to make the attack more convincing.

Whaling phishing 

also known as "CEO fraud," is a type of phishing attack that targets high-level executives or important individuals within an organization, such as CEOs, CFOs, or other senior executives. The goal of whaling phishing is to trick these individuals into revealing sensitive information, such as login credentials or financial information, or to get them to authorize fraudulent financial transactions.

Smishing 

SMS phishing or text message phishing is a type of cyber attack in which the attacker sends a fraudulent text message to a victim in order to trick them into revealing sensitive information or downloading malware onto their device.

Vishing

also known as "voice phishing" or "VoIP phishing," is a type of cyber attack that involves the use of a phone call or voice message to trick a victim into revealing sensitive information or performing an action that benefits the attacker.

Baiting

Baiting involves the use of an attractive offer, such as a free gift or prize, to lure someone into divulging confidential information or performing an action that could be harmful to the targeted organisation.

Quid Pro Quo

Quid pro quo attacks involve offering something in exchange for confidential information or access to a system. For example, an attacker may offer technical support in exchange for access to a system or network.

Techniques Used in Social Engineering Attacks

Impersonation

Attackers often impersonate someone else to make the social engineering attack more convincing. This could involve impersonating a senior executive within an organisation, a trusted friend or colleague, or a service provider.

Urgency

Social engineering attacks often rely on creating a sense of urgency to pressure the target into taking action without thinking. For example, an attacker may claim that an account has been compromised and that the target needs to take immediate action to prevent further harm.

Fear

Fear is a powerful motivator and is often used in social engineering attacks to create a sense of panic or anxiety in the target. For example, an attacker may claim that the target will lose access to their account unless they take immediate action.

Authority

Social engineering attacks often involve the use of authority to make the attack more convincing. This could involve impersonating a senior executive 

within an organisation, a law enforcement officer, or a government official.

Pretexting

Pretexting is a form of social engineering in which an attacker creates a false pretext or scenario to trick an individual into divulging sensitive information or performing an action that is not in their best interest. Pretexting can be used in various ways, such as to obtain personal information, financial information, or access to sensitive systems or data.

Recommendations for Preventing and Mitigating Social Engineering Attacks

Educate Employees

One of the most effective ways to prevent social engineering attacks is to educate employees about the risks and how to recognize and avoid them. Employees should be trained on how to identify suspicious emails and messages, and what to do if they receive one. If an employee falls victim to a social engineering attack, it is essential to act quickly to minimise the damage and prevent further compromises. Immediately report the incident, Change passwords, Notify financial institutions, Check for malware, Review online accounts and Learn from the experience

Implement Technical Controls

Technical controls, such as firewalls, antivirus software, and intrusion detection systems, can help to detect and prevent social engineering attacks, it is worth bearing in mind that this will only work for technology types of attacks, with limited impact on in-person attacks. It is important to keep these controls up to date and to ensure that they are configured properly.

Develop Policies and Procedures

Organisations should develop policies and procedures to govern the handling of confidential information and to prevent unauthorised access to systems and data. These policies should be communicated to all employees and should be enforced rigorously.

Conduct Regular Assessments

Regular assessments, such as vulnerability assessments and penetration testing, can help to identify potential vulnerabilities and weaknesses that could be exploited by social engineering attacks. It is important to address any issues that are identified as part of these assessments.

Social engineering attacks are a serious threat to organisations of all sizes. Attackers use a range of techniques to trick people into divulging confidential information or performing actions that could harm the organisation. The impact of social engineering attacks can be significant, including financial losses, reputational damage, business disruption, and legal consequences

Regular penetration testing is crucial for organisations to maintain the security and integrity of their systems and networks. The latest trends and developments in penetration testing demonstrate that cyber threats are constantly evolving, and new vulnerabilities are being discovered all the time. By conducting regular penetration testing, organisations can identify and address vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by cyber attackers.

Moreover, staying up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in cybersecurity is essential for organisations to maintain their security posture. This means keeping track of the latest threats, emerging technologies, and best practices in the field. It also means investing in the right tools and technologies to help prevent, detect, and respond to cyber threats.

Finally, working with experienced penetration testing professionals can help organisations navigate the latest trends and developments in the field. Penetration testing professionals bring expertise, experience, and cutting-edge tools and technologies to the table, helping organisations to conduct thorough and effective penetration testing.

In summary, the latest trends and developments in penetration testing underscore the importance of staying vigilant and proactive in cybersecurity. By conducting regular penetration testing, staying up-to-date with the latest trends, and working with experienced professionals, organisations can protect themselves against cyber threats and minimise the risk of costly security incidents.

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