Penetration Testing as a Service Explained

June 14, 2022
4 min read

Layers of Solutions

The standard model of cybersecurity solutions is commonly seen as three sequential layers of defense: vulnerability scanning, penetration testing (AKA pentesting), and red teaming.

Vulnerability scanning is a passive form of cyber defense. Through automated means a system is checked for possible weaknesses at set intervals and reports are generated to summarize the findings.

Pentesting brings a human element into the picture. This line of defense tasks cybersecurity experts to actively find and exploit weaknesses in a system using a wider array of tools. Their findings of these vulnerabilities and potential exploits help these systems’ operators find and fix the weak spots and put long-term solutions in place to guard against breaches.

Red Teaming expands and intensifies the active human element. This offensive exercise is designed to simulate an evolving cyber attack on an ecosystem or set of systems. These are often carried out to check the performance of long-term solutions which might have been adopted after a successful pentesting campaign. Accordingly, operators still in the pentesting stage or considering how to respond to a pentest’s results may not engage in red teaming.

Penetration Testing as a Service

More recently, another option has emerged within the second layer of these cybersecurity solution. Penetration Testing as a Service (PTaaS) gives users the ability to access on-demand pentesting in an agile format. Much like the Software as a Service (SaaS) model, this version of pentesting has seen quick adoption in the computer software industry.

PTaaS is designed as a hybrid work incorporating both automated and human testing. These newly automated parts of the pentesting process reduces the number of specialists needed to conduct tests and removes the necessity of working around those specialists' schedules.

How PTaaS Works

Back when organizations relied solely on firewalls, configurations, and basic parameter controls, assessments on their security system once or twice a year would suffice. However, with the world’s ever-advancing threat of cyber attacks, time is more of the essence for businesses to know the most recent state of their security systems.

In a traditional pentest, reports are provided only at the end of a campaign. Now, with rapid development of cloud computing and automation, it’s possible to deliver continuous, reliable real-time testing insights, a main source of admiration for the PTaaS format.

Part of a standard PTaaS provides a cloud service that gives IT professionals the resources needed to conduct and act upon point-on-time and continuous pentesting. Customers of a PTaaS are enabled to use cloud-based resources to perform continuous and on-demand security engagements: applications scanning, professional vulnerability reporting, and much of pentesting performed whenever, wherever. This again reduces the need for direct communication with specialists.

Benefits of PTaaS

1. Monthly Billing

PTaaS is typically charged monthly, flattening the charges into regular, predictable payments.

2. Less Admin Overhead

The PTaaS structure significantly reduces administration overhead, ridding the need for additional approvals and allowing for services to be conducted continuously.

3. Customization

PTaaS is commonly offered with customizable features, allowing its customers to tailor the service based on business type, size, and compliance requirements.

4. Interaction with Software Development

PTaaS can be incorporated into the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) quickly. Any vulnerabilities present in the corresponding phase can be found and resolved easily and the software and compliance requirements are checked during various stages of the release cycle.

5. Continuous and Quick Feedback

A standard PTaaS vendor will provide thorough professional reports including the detailed status, screenshots and visuals, and steps for remediations of the current situation. With a close source of information and answers to questions,developers won’t waste time on speculation. And if developers do face issues with a report, specialists should be readily available for direct contact.

Disadvantages of PTaaS

1. Cost

With a the combined resources of automatic scanners and humans at work,PTaaS can be expensive as opposed to the more simple-designed automatic scanners (SaaS). 

2. Closed Community

Having a single team of experienced pentesters test a client’s applications creates centralization and a limited perspective compared to an open community (e.g.,Bug Bounty Programs).

3. Third Party Restrictions

Not all clients let providers pentest their applications on an ongoing basis. Depending on a client and their set period for approvals, a PTaaS may need to request permissions in advance 5 to 6 times a year. This restricts the flow that could otherwise be an ongoing analysis of the security system. 

4. Incomplete Reports

Complete pentest reports are critical for organizations going for a compliance audit like PCI, DSS, and HIPPA. While a standard PTaaS produces reports specific information points in a timely manner, their reports don’t necessarily cover all bases for a client’s compliance requirements.

Conclusion

PTaaS is an easier and more suitable solution for many organizations over traditional pentesting and has led its clients to view security as more than just an afterthought. Now you have an in sight into PTaaS and its different benefits and disadvantages. For more information like this, check out our other posts below and stay tuned to our writings!

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