What is Penetration Testing as a Service (PTaaS)?


How Does PTaaS Work?

Previously, penetration test results were only accessible after the testing phase ended. While valuable, relying solely on historical data made it challenging for organizations to prioritize and address issues promptly. The Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery model addresses this challenge by allowing organizations to conduct automated tests and access data on demand.

PTaaS providers offer comprehensive dashboards containing relevant data throughout the entire testing process. Similar to traditional penetration testing services, PTaaS vendors assist in identifying vulnerabilities and validating the effectiveness of remediation efforts. Additionally, many PTaaS vendors offer knowledge bases to support internal security teams with their remediation efforts. Some providers even offer guidance from the testers who identified the vulnerabilities.

PTaaS is suitable for organizations of all sizes. These platforms typically cater to various business needs, providing full testing programs and customizable reporting features to meet regulatory compliance requirements.

What are the Benefits of Pentesting as a Service?

PTaaS aligns with modern software development methodologies, like DevOps, that require speed and agility from development and operations teams as well as security. Here are the notable benefits of PTaaS:

  • Hacker-Like Testing On Demand
  • Early Feedback on Code Changes
  • Fast Remediation Support
  • Access to Security Engineers

A penetration test involves simulating attackers to exploit vulnerabilities, providing organizations with insights into their security posture and how their defenses fare against real cyber threats. PTaaS conducts tests on demand, presenting detected vulnerabilities as they’re identified by pentesters. Integrated seamlessly into the software development lifecycle (SDLC), PTaaS alerts developers to vulnerabilities before deploying new code, keeping teams proactive against threats.

TaaS platforms offer comprehensive remediation support, including detailed documentation like screenshots and videos, streamlining the process of identifying and addressing vulnerabilities. This support saves valuable time by eliminating the need to troubleshoot issues. PTaaS vendors also facilitate access to security engineers who can assist in resolving security gaps, ensuring vulnerabilities are addressed effectively without burdening internal teams.

What are the challenges of using a PTaaS?

  • Third-party restrictions
  • Sensitive data retention and handling
  • Budget limitations

Each vendor employs varied approaches to handling sensitive data, with most utilizing encryption for security. However, implementing encryption often involves complex key management processes, which may limit a PTaaS vendor’s ability to utilize keys for data archiving purposes. Automated orchestration empowers organizations to optimize internal resources and budgets efficiently, facilitating the execution of more tests. Nevertheless, security programs facing budget constraints or those in their nascent stages may struggle to address vulnerabilities identified during annual penetration testing within shorter testing cycles.

Not all third-party vendors offer continuous pentesting services. Many require client organizations to request tests in advance. For instance, Amazon Web Services (AWS) mandates that customers obtain testing authorization beforehand, granting a maximum testing window of 12 weeks. Consequently, organizations can only conduct regular PTaaS on AWS if they request permission 4-5 times annually.

What To Look For In a PTaaS Provider

  • Human, Hands-on Approach
  • Dedicated Expertise
  • Useful, Actionable Reporting
  • DevSecOps Friendly

Automated, software-driven solutions have limitations in detecting all critical vulnerabilities within an environment or software application. Human expertise offers valuable flexibility and creativity to support manual testing, uncovering sophisticated vulnerabilities and cyber threats that automation may overlook. Human intelligence intuitively determines when to delve deeper into an issue and when to proceed, enhancing the depth of testing.

PTaaS vendors that incorporate manual testing can achieve broader coverage, providing more comprehensive security assessments. The effectiveness of a penetration testing service heavily relies on the expertise of the professionals conducting the tests. An ideal PTaaS vendor recruits talented individuals with relevant experience and qualifications to meet organizations’ needs. Certifications such as OSCP, OSCE, and OSWE serve as valuable indicators of the vendor’s experts’ proficiency.

Some PTaaS vendors adopt a crowdsourced model, where a different penetration tester is assigned to the organization for each test. However, this approach prevents organizations from establishing consistent relationships with testers who possess in-depth knowledge of their systems and applications. While it diversifies testing, it lacks standardization, hindering the ability to optimize testing procedures and expedite results.

An effective penetration test should deliver comprehensive reporting capabilities that stakeholders can comprehend and act upon. The report should include a concise executive summary along with detailed technical insights covering impact assessment, identified risks, vulnerability specifics, proof of concepts, attack vectors, mitigation recommendations, and prioritized remediation strategies.

PTaaS plays a crucial role in supporting DevSecOps teams by integrating security measures earlier in the development process. Testing applications at an early stage and conducting repeated assessments allow teams to address security issues promptly, resulting in more secure applications without costly rework during later stages of the SDLC.

PTaaS vendors offer dashboards that cater to technology, security, and business teams, delivering insights to reduce vulnerability remediation time and enhance risk visibility. These dashboards contribute to cost savings by providing advanced features, controls, and configurations. An ideal dashboard seamlessly integrates with existing technology stacks and cloud environments, ensuring smooth operation and enhanced usability.

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