A penetration test, or a “pen test,” involves a variety of both manual and automated techniques that simulate a cyberattack on an organization’s data and security.
To prioritize a holistic approach to cyber defense, organizations need to understand the environment under protection, the anomalies affecting the security of the system and—most importantly—the plan for remediation.
When reported and carried out properly, penetration tests can identify an organization’s security weaknesses and avenues of attack. With this knowledge, organizations can uncover the information and support that’s required to mitigate or remove those vulnerabilities.
Once your organization receives the test results, it’s time to prioritize your remediation efforts based on the most critical items. These items will be the most obvious points that malicious attackers will attempt to use to exploit your systems.
As you begin to measure your resources and develop your timeframe for remediation, there are several core elements you must keep in mind.
Understand the Business
The first step in effective penetration test remediation is gaining a full understanding of the business. What are the most critical of assets of the business? How might these assets be impacted by an exploit of a known vulnerability? By understanding these and other assets, the pen test should reveal how critical each resource is to the business or organization.
Understand the Risk
Next, it’s critical to understand the risks posed to the organization. By analyzing the impacts of a successful breach of the main assets, businesses can pinpoint their most threatening risks based on criticality. During this phase, it’s important to analyze the compensating factors that the organization may have in place in order to effectively understand the overall residual risks posed.
As the remediation process moves forward, organizations must ensure that every effort is driven and prioritized based on risk and criticality. Thus, the highest risks on the most critical assets should be remediated first. Allocate your budget for remediation activities wisely, as the process can be costlier than the pen test itself, depending on the results.
Test and Retest
All changes and remediation activities should be subject to testing prior to full implementation. This may take many forms, depending on the asset or software that is to be remediated. Following successful remediation, it is always highly advisable to conduct another penetration test to see if remediation has been successful. Proper remediation means that vulnerabilities have been addressed and remediated, resulting in the avenues of attack being closed.
While undertaking a series of penetration tests is critical to protecting your organization from risk of a breach, it is just as important to undergo effective pen test remediation. Once the security gaps are uncovered, you must understand your risks based on criticality, prioritize your recovery efforts and test, and retest, if necessary.